Submission to the House of Commons Education Committee


English law recognises that parents are responsible for the education of their children and are therefore entitled to home educate their children should they choose to do so.  There are many reasons why parents choose this option for their children ranging from a desire to provide a style of education they feel is more suited to the temperament and abilities of their child through to a breakdown in trust in the local education provision to provide a safe and nurturing environment for their children which reflects their beliefs and values.

For gifted children or those with learning difficulties parents can pace lessons to their child’s needs in a way which is not always possible in school.  It also possible to structure lessons around a child’s particular interests thereby increasing their learning across the whole range of core subjects.

The current arrangements provide families with the privacy to educate their children in a way which they believe is best whilst giving local authorities adequate powers to intervene should they have good grounds for believing that a child is at risk or receiving an inadequate education.  Requiring local authorities, most of whom are already struggling to meet their statutory duties, to undertake the extra tasks proposed when there is no evidence to show that there is a significant problem with the education provided by parents who home-school their children.

To require parents to register with local authorities in order to be allowed to undertake the education of their own children undermines the principle already laid down in English law that parents are responsible for the education of their children, not the state.  Most parents are content to allow their children to attend schools provided by the local authority or private schools, but they all have the right to withdraw their children should they be dissatisfied with this provision in some way.  This is often true for children with special needs where local provision is inadequate.

It is unclear to me what benefits such a register would bring, since local authorities already have the power to intervene if they have sufficient grounds.  Parents who might be of concern are unlikely to register in the first place the task of creating and maintaining such a register of law-abiding parents would simply divert resources from children more at risk. 

If the concern is unregulated schools, formal exclusions and off-rolling, there are existing powers to deal with these issues and local authorities should not be distracted from attending to these areas of concern by being required to register and inspect families who have perfectly legally chosen to educate their children themselves.

Children who are home educated are much less likely to require intervention from local authorities and the state and research conducted in 2015 (Charles Warner – ‘Home Education and the Safeguarding Myth: Analysing the Facts Behind the Rhetoric’, showed that they were 2 to 3 times less likely to be subject to a child protection plan, despite being twice as likely to be referred to social services, which seems to indicate a bias against parents who home educate. Indeed the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsmen and reason to reprimand one authority for making visits to one family without giving adequate reasons.