HED0935

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 of Evidence to Commons Education Committee

 

by [name]

 

I am an FE college tutor. I also work as a private tutor, and have taught many home educated children, both at college and privately.  I have two children: one was  home-educated from the age of [age] the other was not.

 

My perspective on this subject is based on:

 

 

 

My conclusions are given first, with notes on my experiences later.

 

Quality of Education:

 

Home education should not be implicitly compared with some imaginary “gold standard” education provided by the state. For very many children, state education is far from the ideal.

 

Learning at state schools can be compromised by issues which do not affect home educators: hard-pressed teachers with excessive administrative duties, large class sizes, wide ability ranges, narrow curricula, and limited time

 

Home-education offers the potential of being very effective education. It can produce young adults who are more confident, more resourceful and more responsible, and with a wider range of skills and interests than those produced by the state system.

 

Home education is a difficult, demanding, expensive undertaking. it involves a very significant sacrifice of time, money, and quality of life for parents and carers.

 

It should therefore be actively supported by the state, and not merely tolerated. This applies especially at secondary level.

 

The state should provide more resources to home educators, and should work with them.

Local authorities should provide resources to help home educators, eg via local HE groups. They should offer advice on forms of education outside the National Curriculum, and make links with education-providers.

 

Schools should be funded to make the more specialised and expensive resources available to home educated children, eg science laboratory resources, at weekends and outside term-time.

Home education should be especially supported at secondary level.

 

Pathways should be made to make it easier for home-educated children to join FE/sixth form colleges, especially the smaller and more communal colleges. Colleges should be encouraged to work with prospective home educators well before enrolment dates, to ensure that the HE children are aware of what preparatory study is required for A level, BTEC and other courses.

 

Some corrective action is required to address an unwarranted prejudice against home education by educators and educationalists.

 

 

Welfare:

 

Welfare and education are two largely different things. Welfare should take priority over education. A child’s welfare may be better served by them being at home than at school. It is surely better for a child to be properly fed, safe, secure and happy at home with a limited education, than it is for them to be miserable at school.

 

A school may “tick all the official boxes relating to welfare but still contain a sizeable number of unhappy children, who if not subject to obvious abuse, have their lives made miserable by being bullied, name-called or shunned by their peers, or harassed by overworked teachers, or just by not being robust enough to survive the turmoil of a school day - unable to get food and drink when they need it, unable to find somewhere quiet to study or to take a break, or to be comforted, or stressed about many things from forgetting things, catching transport, or dealing with personal adolescent issues.

 

Other children may have conditions such as Asperger’s or dyslexia which (again with the best of intentions) is not recognised or acted on by the school, or which the school simply has no means to act on.

 

For too many children, school means survival in a hostile environment. The effect on them is usually mental, but it often manifests in physical symptoms. It certainly prejudices learning.

 


My Daughter’s Home-Education

 

My daughter thrived in primary education in a small village state school. She attended secondary school for a while, then switched to home education when health issues resulted in frequent absence. She developed various allergies and food intolerances. The school was unable to accommodate her dietary needs (including lack or space in the school dining area, with no alternative).

 

When our daughter could not attend school we asked for resources to enable distance-learning, with little response. Despite keeping the school informed of her absence, we were visited unannounced by a local authority truancy officer, who was unaware of her health issues. Our daughter’s mental health also deteriorated, so we decided, for her well-being, to teach her at home.

 

We informed the LEA of our intention to home-educate, and repeatedly requested a visit from the Home Education Officer.

 

Early in her home education my daughter was diagnosed professionally as having a form of dyslexia, despite having a very high reading age. The school had detected problems but had not made a correct diagnosis. They placed her in a remedial reading group, obliging her to read juvenile primary-school books, which was demoralising and didn’t address the issue. We were able to obtain specialist help, and tailored her learning to help her overcome her dyslexia.

 

Initially our daughter required time to recover from her experiences at senior school. Then gradually, with a lot of time and effort, her natural curiosity and enthusiasm was rekindled and she  became able to take ownership of her own learning.

 

She took exams as an external candidate, gaining GCSEs in [subjects]. She also obtained a BTEC distinction in [subject] via attendance at a local college. During her home education she also studied a wide variety of extra-curricular subjects, for example working in a pottery and becoming part of a local drama group, and worked in the community, in childcare and, latterly, in a local hospital.  These opportunities would not have been available to her had she remained in state education. It is unlikely she would have been able to take part in “after-school” activities as - before she started home education - the school day left her too fatigued to do more than rest.

 

She is a very social person who enjoyed the company of other children and adults in a variety of locations and roles.

 

She was offered a place to study A level [subjects] at a helpful local (state) college but decided instead to finish her full-time education to pursue other interests.

 

 

 

When friends, relatives and colleagues learnt about her home education, we had almost universally negative response, particular from anyone involved in the teaching profession. Curiously this negative attitude persisted, despite the improvement in my daughter’s physical and mental condition, and the quality of learning she was able to demonstrate. A number of spurious arguments were put forward, such as that she was being deprived of chance to learn social skills, and to grow physically and mentally resilient in the rough-and-tumble of school life. My wife and I gradually began to realise that there is a widespread irrational prejudice against home education.

 

During her education we received several visits from our local authority’s Home Education Officer. He talked to my daughter and wife, and inspected work done by my daughter. He was more than satisfied with the home education but not able to offer any significant material support.

 

For much of my daughter’s home education we had a low income and so had to make considerable sacrifices to pay for private tutors, travel to educational events, books and other resources.

 

We lived in a relatively rural location in [place], so were fortunate that she was able to do some of her learning via video calls. We were also greatly helped by local and regional networks of other home educators.

 

 

Observations of other HE children and parents or carers

 

I have met with many other home educators, and the sense I have is that of a somewhat embattled group who are trying to do their best for their children against active or passive discouragement from various quarters.

 

The great majority of home-educated children I have met are sensible, well-adjusted, articulate people who look happy and fulfilled.

 

I have heard of some home-educated children who have, in my view, not been educated well by their parents or carers. This mostly relates to a too-idiosyncratic form of education, and also insufficient opportunities to be part of life and work outside their home. At college I have come across two home-educated students who were not able to fit in, however this was because they had mental health conditions - probably the reason they had had been home-educated in the first place. In both cases these children were in a small minority.

 

Only very rarely, and then second or third hand, have I heard of home-educated children where there was a question mark over their welfare.

 

In a few cases, I have met home-educating parents who have avoided state education because they felt that their children’s welfare would otherwise be adversely affected. This included moral welfare, for example the parents wished to protect their children from an overly-sexualised culture amongst their peer group, or from exposure to harmful internet sites. 

 

Observations at my FE College

 

A significant number of home-educated children re-join the state system at FE/sixth-form level.

 

I suspect that one driver for home education are limitations in the quality of state secondary education, including provision for children’s welfare.

 

I find that, on the whole, home educated children have no trouble making friends and fitting in. They generally have a better work ethic than students who have come from secondary school. As a general rule, home-educated children arriving at my college are more self-motivated and proactive than children from secondary schools. The home-educated do not wait until they are told what to do. They do not have to be helped to organise themselves. They do more work outside class. They are more confident in relating to tutors. They are just as well informed about, current affairs, and cultural and moral issues.

 

In my work in FE I am struck by the number of children who arrive from secondary state education who, despite five years of teaching, cannot do basic maths, or cannot write legibly, or cannot read, or who are inarticulate, or whose interests outside college are both narrow and shallow, or who arrive with undiagnosed conditions. Much remedial work has to be done to help these children.

 

Observations as a Private Tutor

 

In my work as a private tutor, I have taught many home-educated children [subjects], at pre-GCSE and GCSE level. Home-educated children invariably make more of the extra help available from a private tutor and are easier to relate to in a one-to-one setting.

 

In addition I have privately tutored many children in state education, who came to me because their learning was being held back by excessive class sizes, lack of individual attention from hard-pressed teachers, class disruption, peer pressure (“it’s not cool to look clever”) and other problems common in secondary education.

 

November 2020