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.]


Submission to Education Committee re elective home education


We are home educators. Four of our children have now completed their education, all having passed IGCSEs and A levels as appropriate, and are all successfully working in useful occupations. We are still home educating the four youngest. Our eldest child did attend school for just over a year before we began our home education journey.


In response to the point about the duties of local authorities with regard to home education, including safeguarding and assuring the quality of it, we would like to emphasise that the responsibility for education rests with a child’s parents, who have the most interest in making sure their child has the best possible education. Education law is clear on this point and has not changed. The Education Committee’s 2012 report ‘Support for Home Education’, Section 2 (first para) mentions the relationship between home educators and local authorities and sums up our thoughts succinctly:


“10. The role of the local authority is clear with regard to home education. They have two duties: to provide support for home educating families (at a level decided by local authorities themselves), and if families wish it; and to intervene with families if the local authority is given reason to believe that a child is not receiving a suitable education. It is not the role of the local authority routinely to monitor whether a suitable education is being provided, and local authorities should not act as if it is, or cause parents to believe that it is.”


We believe this approach strikes the balance between family privacy and child protection. We would point out that the primary safeguarders of children are their own parents – not the state.  Local authorities already have significant powers to investigate when they have a good reason to believe there is a problem. If local authorities are then charged with the added responsibility of safeguarding, they will inevitably, to avoid criticism, be under pressure to start interfering in the lives of innocent families which will distract them from looking after the interests of children who really are most at risk. 


On the second point of whether a statutory register is required, the answer is an emphatic NO.  There is no evidence that a register would be effective as parents who are likely to be of concern are unlikely to register anyway. It is an unnecessary intrusion into family life by the state, and would no doubt lead on to further and more intrusive monitoring by the state. Why should a parent register to teach their own children? They have the best interests of their child at heart. After all, they have been teaching their child from birth and home education is but a natural extension of that.


The benefits that home education has brought our family are many and include the freedom to learn! We have been able to follow our children’s interests as well as having the opportunity to cover subjects more deeply or more widely than would be possible in a classroom, also covering subjects not available in schools. We have the ability to be flexible and tailor our learning to our children’s needs – some of our children have [personal information]. With one of our children [personal information] – it maybe wasn’t appreciated at the time, but when that child was [age] he told us that he now appreciated the effort that we had put into it.  Another child [personal information].  Learning isn’t sterile – it doesn’t have to stop when the clock gets to a certain time.  Helping the children overcome their difficulties and encouraging them in their interests is also a key benefit of home education.  As the children have got older we have helped them to take over responsibility for their own learning which helps equip them with the tools, self-discipline and motivation to successfully face adult life.


The disadvantages of home education from our point of view are connected to the continual stigmatising of home educators by the media, lobbyists, senior civil servants, and local and national politicians, particularly over the past decade. It is wearying to be continually viewed negatively and with suspicion especially in recent years when home education has been linked with inflated concerns – radicalisation, off-rolling, school exclusions among others. Governments and local authorities across the UK need to lead the way in putting a stop to this continual negativity towards parents who work hard and sacrifice a lot in order to give their children a good education.


With regard to the quality and accessibility of support we would say the main issue for us with our children has been the cost of taking exams as private candidates.  Other home educating parents have found it difficult to find centres to take national exams, but that wasn’t an issue for us personally. From the various groups we are on we are aware that many other parents have had problems with accessing specialist support services when their children have special needs. The big caveat though is that any support should always be voluntary. If support is given it should not become an issue that those who choose not to avail themselves of it, or choose not to follow advice, are then perceived to be a cause for concern.


As stated above, the current regulatory framework has the right balance we believe and there is no evidence of a problem with it. Wendy Charles-Warner’s research in 2015 found that although home educated children were twice as likely to be referred to social services, they were two to three times less likely to be subject to a Child Protection Plan than children in school were. They are much less likely to need protection than school children and do not suffer from school bullying so the current framework is sufficient.  Our concern is that elective home education over the past few years has often been conflated with other matters including unregistered schools, exclusion by schools and off-rolling by schools. These matters are important, but they are school issues, they are not, and must not be, linked with elective home education, which is a completely separate matter.


The future regulation of home education must not include inspection – there is no mandate for it as Councils already have powers to intervene when home education is not adequate. One of the strengths of home education is the diversity of the education. There are many different ways of educating – from the child-led to the ‘school at home’ approach. Attempting to inspect this is inappropriate especially by those who do not understand home education. When parents are, in the main, already spending much time and effort in directing the education of their children, the added issue of inspections and related paperwork is likely to increase pressure, stress and potentially damage mental health unnecessarily, as well as affecting the children themselves.  It would be an unwarranted intrusion into the home and family privacy and there is no evidence to suggest that not being inspected puts children at risk.


The education committee, in our view, would be better placed focussing on the poor results reported and unhappiness experienced by so many school children rather than diverting their limited resources into the home education area, where any problems can already be dealt with under existing local authority powers.  Whilst proposals for a home education register and inspections may be well-intentioned, a happy society has freedom and liberty for its cornerstone and not ever more oppressive and ever-growing state interference.



November 2020