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.]


Evidence re: Homeschooling for Education Select Committe, November 2020


I direct an education association, and offer private tuition across the Humanities.


The question of registering homeschoolers arises again, only a couple of years after it was last raised. It is clear the Government is set on the plan – the present Leader of the House of Commons said as much at the time, despite his personal opposition.


Yet no-one can claim, in any serious manner, that this is for the educational or welfare good of the children involved. On average, homeschoolers attain to higher educational standards than other children. Despite being referred to Social Services more often (paranoically, one suspects), it is clear that the average homeschooled child is less likely to be a victim of abuse or neglect than the average child. There is no evidence that mental health outcomes are worse for homeschooled children.


A mandatory register, and therefore the capacity for overweening local authorities to interfere further in family life, is therefore obviously unjustifiable. The vast, vast majority of homeschooling families are more successful at educating their children – by any objective standard – than the state is in its own sphere. But what are the fig-leaf reasons offered for the register?


The first common reason given is “offrolling”, where schools – quite unacceptably – functionally but subtly expel low-attaining students to improve the school’s exam record. The solution to this is plainly not registration, but mandatory enquiries with parents if a child leaves school, particularly in the context of an exam year or period. Of course, this already happens in part, via intention to withdraw letters. But it would be quite reasonable to have an inspectorate-written letter sent to the parents involved to confirm the matter.


The second common reason given relates to illegal schools. This is obviously irrelevant – children being registered would not lead to the discovery of illegal schools, unless the Government were illicitly using the registry for surveillance. Illegal schools are dealt with perfectly well at present, and registration would not aid in solving this problem.


The third and final common reason given is about extremism and failure to socially integrate. It may well be true that is a problem in a tiny minority of cases – but that is scarcely cause to reduce parental rights on the whole. It also, as a topic, begs the question of who determines the exact values parents need to follow or affirm, and how registration alone would help with that. At any rate, there is already a body which could be given more funding and support to deal with this – social workers. These are the obvious people to turn to, where there are reports of problems of integration in families or communities. The problem is social, not educational. The desire to use the education system to deal with a tiny minority of cases is a turn to the wrong tool, because it is a large and heavy one.


The Committee should not recommend any plans or proposals to enforce mandatory registration in homeschooling, or any other significant Government/LA/LEA oversight of home education. Indeed, such proposals should be rejected as shoddy, ill thought-through, and overbearing.


November 2020