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.]


Home Education



The broad shape of post-war English education was determined by the Education Act 1944, which was approved on all sides.  Enshrined within that Act was the following general principle: “that pupils are to be educated in accordance with the wishes of their parents“.  This principle is continued in the Education Act 1996 section 9.


The issue of where responsibility for education lies has been debated for millennia.  The Judeo-Christian tradition which we have inherited dates back to the early history of Israel.  It was the duty of parents to hear God’s commandments and to “teach them diligently to your children” (Deuteronomy 6).


By contrast, ancient Sparta was notorious for removing children from the care of their parents and educating them in a militaristic boot-camp.  Totalitarian regimes the world over have followed their example, from the Hitler Youth to the Chinese concentration camps for Uighurs.


Clearly in this country we have been spared anything so extreme, but the issue may arise in more subtle guise.  It is not the function of the state to assess the validity of parental education.  Rather, it is for parents to assess the adequacy of the state.


However, the state has gradually increased its control of education. An obvious example is the National Curriculum, introduced in response to the perceived shortcomings of the teaching profession.  This increased the wish of some parents to opt-out of schools.  The National Curriculum has since been reduced and is not imposed on academies.  But state control has increased in other ways, as with compulsory Relationships and Sex Education.  When parental entitlement to withdraw their children from lessons is denied, some parents withdraw from school altogether.


It is therefore inappropriate for the state to seek to claw back control by means of Ofsted.  Local authorities already have powers to investigate whether a child is receiving suitable education at home.  If parents fail in this regard, then a council may resort to the courts.


Ofsted has already on occasion over-reached its powers with regard to schools. There have been assessments which have been downgraded, not because the education given was inefficient but because ideologically Ofsted disagreed with it.  It has proved difficult for schools to resist this weight of officialdom.  How much more so if Ofsted were assessing individual sets of parents?


It would be more constructive if Ofsted were to make available to parents information about the ranges of teaching materials used in schools.  Parents unhappy with what their local school offers might value guidance on what other schools use elsewhere.  It might also be helpful if small grants could be made available to parents (but I appreciate our dire economic climate) for the purchase of appropriate books.  In short, I think that it would be more constructive to be positive towards home educators rather than imply the threat of Ofsted.


6 November 2020:                                                                                                  [member of the public]


November 2020