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.]


[member of the public], Home Educator, [location]


Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the provision of Home Education.

I am home educator and parent of two children with varying special educational needs. 

We live in [location], which is administered by [location] (LA).  Our experience until recently has been cordial, with an understanding on what the law allows the LA to ask us to provide and what it is not allowed to ask for.  Each year I write and submit a report which details what home education looks like for my two children, I discuss our education philosophy and approach and then detail the resources which we use and progress made in key subject areas.  I also discuss progression towards qualifications such as GCSEs. 

Recently there has been a change in tone in communications from the LA.  I am being asked to submit samples of my children’s work, and to accept a home visit from a LA representative to assess my educational provision.  There is little point in such a visit as the LA representative does not know or understand my children and is therefore unable to assess the adequacy of their education.  Furthermore, many people who are tasked with this role are not educators, therefore are not equipped to deal with making a judgement.  As in many LAs, elective home education is also grouped with “children missing in education”, the implication being that home educators are not providing an education.

I recognise that local authorities have a responsibility to ensure that an adequate education is being provided.  My experience is that LAs have limited or no understanding about what successful home education looks like.  The communications from my own LA reveal an expectation that home education should be very similar to classroom based school education. Home education is easily able to transcend what can be achieved in a classroom due to its entirely different nature.

Is a register required?  I am puzzled by the constant urging for a register of home educators.  If a child has ever been in school, or a parent has turned down an allocated place for their child, that child will already be known to the local authority. The same is true if a family has had contact with the Health Visitor. Why is a further register needed?  The connotations of a register are of concern to me, as the implication is one of tracking individuals who are guilty of doing something wrong.

The benefits of home education are considerable.  [personal information], due to a gentle and nurturing approach taken on our home educating journey, he is now studying for five GCSEs.  Home education has allowed him to choose some GCSEs which are not available in school, such as [subject]. [personal information]  Since leaving school she is able to work at her own pace on subjects which interest her.  She is reading at a full academic year ahead of her actual age group, has found a maths programme which allows her to learn in a hands on way at the correct academic age and has regained the love of learning which she had lost. 

We are asked to give evidence on accessibility of support for those with special educational needs and mental health difficulties.  My own family’s experience of this is that support for in these areas is very hard to obtain.  In my own LA it is very difficult to get an EHCP for a young person, whether they are in mainstream school or receiving a different provision.  There is little support in place for home educators trying to get one an EHCP. The LA assumes that all children requiring an EHCP are in school, in spite of the fact that many local home educated children have special needs.  Often the best way to get an EHCP for a home educated child is to enlist the help of a parent who has already obtained one for their own child.  This is surely an area in which the LA could be more explicitly supportive.

Would regulation ensure wellbeing and academic achievement? In my experience home education does not require further regulation, it requires greater understanding by LAs about the nature of home education and also about how children learn at home, supported by parents instead of in a school setting.  A further aspect to note is the difference between someone, like myself, who has chosen to educate their children at home, and a parent who has been forced to take direct responsibility for their child’s education due to the scandalous practice of “off rolling” by schools.  These parents also do not need greater monitoring and supervision of their home education provision, they need a suitable school place for their child where the child’s needs are met.  Regulation of home education would see the introduction of a “one size fits all” education which is seen to suit only a few children within the school system currently.  One of the great joys of home educating is the ability to find ways of helping a child to learn which suit the child and of which they can then take ownership. 

The place of inspection in home education.  Frankly, there is no place for inspection of home educators.  Home education is a joyous process during which children acquire the skills to be fully rounded humans.  This cannot be inspected by someone with a tick sheet who does not know how home education works, may have preconceived prejudices against it and is eager to prove that all children should be in school.  LA staff members are, by the very nature of their departmental responsibilities only really interested in seeing an education which can be measured by tick sheets.  This is a contributory reason why many home educators, myself included, do not want our children to go to school.  When an inspector visits our homes, they will also feel that they have the right to evaluate us as parents and as human beings.  This is simply not appropriate or acceptable.  The feeling of many home educating parents is that the local authority wishes to get our children into school, where they can receive a prescribed education, instead of allowing us to show how our children are receiving the very best education tailored for them. 


Improvements to support for home educated children

Greater clarity for both LAs and home educators in understanding the duties of both.  It would also help if LA staff had a better understanding of how home education works so that advice could be given from a place of understanding.  It is very obvious that there is a very high level of both special educational needs and mental health problems among young people who are withdrawn from school to be home educated.  Support from specialist organisations such as Autism Outreach and occupational health services would be very helpful to home educators.  Access to diagnosis would also benefit home educating families also.  Families who withdraw their children from school often do so as result of failure to meet a child’s needs while they are within the educational system.  This is an area which, if properly addressed would lead to fewer desperate parents taking their children from the school system.


The other way in which home educating families could feel supported by their Local Authority is for LAs to respect the knowledge and understanding which often exists among home educators.   This would involve taking a lighter touch to home education and trying to open a dialogue of mutual understanding with home educators.


Impact of Covid 19

[personal information] The lasting problem has been in the confusing nature of the guidance given in relation to home education groups.  Many groups have been cancelled since the beginning of the first lockdown in March 2020.  Most are organised by parent volunteers who are not prepared to wade through current guidance and make a judgement about the risk to wellbeing to participants.  A further difficulty is that many organisations such as churches and village halls, who had previously hired rooms to home education groups are not prepared to do so due to their own lack of familiarity with guidelines  and concern about the transmitting of Covid 19.  Furthermore, different departments at our local council have different interpretations of the guidance. 

A problem which has severely effected home educating families has been the cancellation of exams in the summer of this year.  This was done while completely disregarding the fact that many students would be entered for exams, but would have no teachers to provide assessments to provide an exam grade.  This has had a catastrophic effect on home educated young people, who were relying on grades to get into university or college.  The problem is yet to be resolved for many of these young people.  I am very worried about with regard to my own son who is hoping to sit GCSEs in the coming year.  If the government cancels exams as they were cancelled this year, the impact on my son, academically and emotionally could be awful. 

My final comment on the this is to say that many home educating families would welcome a less adversarial situation with their Local Authorities, one in which they felt listened to and like the LA were always trying to “catch them out”.   There is every possibility that strong working relationships can be built with the home education community with respect on both sides.


November 2020