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.]


Response to Education Committee Call for Evidence: Home Education

To provide some context, I write as a home-ed ‘graduate’, having been home-educated for my entire primary and secondary education. Following my education at home, I completed a range of qualifications at local adult colleges ([personal information]). I then obtained [personal information]. Alongside work, I obtained a [qualification] via a partnership between [organisations]. I am now employed as [occupation].

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

Under section 7 of the Education Act 1996, it is the legal responsibility of parents (and not the local authority) to provide their child with a suitable education: ‘The parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him to receive efficient full-time education... either by regular attendance at school or otherwise.’

It is important that parents remain free to make and carry out their own decision as to how they can best fulfil their responsibilities under the Act, whether that is by sending their child to school or by some other route, such as home-education.

Local authorities currently have powers to intervene where there are safeguarding concerns or evidence that an inadequate education is being provided and I would consider an extension of these powers to be an undue intrusion into private family life and parental responsibility.

It is also important that local authorities and social workers are clear in their understanding that elective home-education is not by itself an indicator of safeguarding concerns. Education and safeguarding are two different issues and should be kept separate.

  1. Whether a statutory register of home-educated children is required.

A statutory register of home-educated children is not required as it is the responsibility of parents and not the state to ensure the appropriate education of their children. It would seem very intrusive for the state to require parents to register to educate their own children.

  1. The benefits children gain from home education, and the potential disadvantages they may face.

Having been home-educated myself and having observed my siblings and many of my friends go through the same process, I would see the following as some of the main benefits of home-education:

One disadvantage for home-educated children is that the college and university system is very much targeted at those who have been through the standard school system and often (though not always) fails to recognise those who may have ability, but who do not have conventional qualifications. I don’t have a single GCSE myself (although I studied a range of subjects to GCSE level) and I do not believe this has hindered my career prospects in any way. However, a lack of formal GCSEs or other recognised qualifications can make it difficult to be accepted on certain further and higher education courses. It would be good if colleges and universities were more open to accepting alternative evidence of ability from those who may have the required level of knowledge but who do not have the formal certificates.

  1. 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.

I do not personally have experience of home-educators and their children needing support for SEN, disabilities and mental health issues, so cannot comment on this.

In terms of the transition to further and higher education, I have noted in point 3 above that an openness in universities and colleges to accept alternative evidence of knowledge and skills would be beneficial, especially for home-educated children who have chosen not to take conventional qualifications.

Some home-educating families also have difficulties in accessing exam centres which accept external candidates and this is an area where it would be good to see further improvements.

Outside of these issues, in my experience many home-educating families do not desire or need additional support.

  1. 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’.

It is important that education and safeguarding are seen as two separate issues and that they are not confused. In addition, home-education should not be confused with illegal schools or with the education of children who have been excluded from school through no choice of their parents.

There is a concern that some local authority staff and social workers automatically view home-education as raising a safeguarding risk and this presumption needs to be corrected where it exists.

The current regulatory framework contains provisions to deal with genuine safeguarding concerns and with children who are in receipt of an inadequate education. This is considered adequate for local authorities to fulfil their responsibilities.

In many cases, children have been withdrawn from school to deal with concerns that their parents have about their safety in a school environment – for example, bullying or special educational needs which are not being adequately dealt with. In these situations, the child will be safer at home than in school. It is essential that the presumption that school is a safe place and the home is not is avoided in all discussions about elective home-education.

  1. The role that inspection should play in future regulation of home education.

Every home-educating family is unique and there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Some families are very rigid and structured, while others take a more autonomous approach. Due to this, it would be inappropriate for a standard inspection regime to be applied to home-educating families.

Local authorities do not have the resources to routinely monitor all home-educated children and should not be wasting limited resources inspecting families about whom there are no concerns, while running the risk of diverting resources away from families with genuine needs.

As with registration, the inspection of parents who are teaching their own children represents a high level of intrusion into private family life and is not desirable. Schools require inspection as they are accountable to the parents who have entrusted their children to them, but the same principle does not apply to home-educating parents who have chosen to fulfil their educational responsibilities themselves.

  1. 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.

No comments.

  1. 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.

COVID-19 and the alternative arrangements made for exams in summer 2020 meant that many home-educated children who had studied for exams were unable to take them and therefore unable to obtain the desired qualifications. For some, this will have had a knock on effect on their plans for the future.

Although alternative arrangements were made for children within the school system, no provision was made for home-educated children, which put them at a distinct disadvantage.

If there is further disruption to exams in summer 2021, then arrangements should be made to ensure that home-educated children are not disadvantaged and that they are able to achieve the qualifications they have studied for.

November 2020