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.]

As a long term philosophical home educator of over [number] years encompassing 4 children 3 of whom have diagnosed SEND,  I have seen the influx of newly deregistering families as shocking. The numbers are swelling at a staggering rate and across all walks of life. Without a shadow of doubt the effects of the pandemic are in part a factor but by far the worst element is the failure of schools to provide adequate high quality differentiated teaching simply speaking. Teachers are either too young or too over stretched to cope with the additional needs which statutory duties state they must do. This leads the families of the children who can not have their needs met by a graduated response to a satisfactory level the only option available which is to withdraw their child from school.

For some the effect is immediate relief and respond to the change seamlessly for some it takes a while to find a groove and for others it’s a simple path to another stepping stone. Either way their lives are outside a mainstream environment where despite the world home schooling for a time in 2020 we are still held by some to the theory beginning with harm and guilt and a fight to prove our innocence and clear our names before we even begin.

In fact for many they simply wish for the individualised education they believe their child deserves and the only way they feel they can achieve that is by delivering that personally and being directly in charge of that provision.

I had to write to request the help of the DfE a few years ago as our LA ([name of local authority]) Policy was to insist on seeing children  and failure to do so was an automatic report to Social Services for an investigation. I was incensed as it was a clear conflation of S175. I had not ignored my LA request for information – in fact I had gone with my two older children who were studying for GCSEs for a whole 90 minutes and had presented a 12 page report for all the children’s educational activities and progress from the past 12 months. It was at the hands of Lord Nash on behalf of Justine Greening who wrote to the LA and stated that their Policy could not trump the law. Today I have had to write to the LA again as we have just gone back 5 years with a conflation of welfare with EHE families and the law versus policy. The threats of filling in forms and acquiescing to demands no matter how overreaching their demands or unlawful they are. The policy of our local authority is dubious by its means of incorporation and it is far from cooperative, and full of threats and used as a weapon to intimidate. It serves only to perpetuate a hostile environment between the two parties of which no one benefits.

In the most part parents want what is best for their child and the recent push for 10+ GCSEs at high grades and the intrusive introduction of league tables on further fuels the rise in EHE  as the way to protect their children’s mental health especially where the child may have SEND.

Our LA albeit fragmented and hidden are one of the few that offer a small offer financial contribution towards the cost of exams. However the fee is inadequate to cover more than 1 exam as a private candidate and they do not support our use of local schools or colleges and we have no support for access arrangements for children with SEND – a matter which in our family had to be argued out with [name] whom suggested that autistic children should receive further ‘training’ then they may not need so much support….and therefore taking examinations comes at a great financial cost. We are forces to travel significant distances to use exam centres who have robust systems to enable the children to have equal opportunities to access examinations and we have found the Tutors and Exams Centre the most comprehensive and impressive option and the right attitude to candidate entries – for the children and they take pride in their work and their candidates.

If a ‘Register’ would allow us access to funding for exams or to facilities in school down times like labs etc it is worth it however, the cost and effort to administer to get nothing really on either side is really not.

Benefits, my eldest was an accelerated learner she was smart. EHE allowed her to continue on to A levels in her chosen field at [school year] she would never be able to have done that in school. All 4 have had freedom to choose their pathways and they have been able to mix with people young and old not necessarily in their direct age bracket, they have learned patience and tolerance through that, time to experience and live life not learn about it from books. To travel and to meet challenges in their own time and way without the pressure of prescription. All of my children have SEND so they have been able to work at their own aptitude and abilities in their own way – they are mainly auditory and kinesthetic learners and they have had the freedom to move while learning which helps with the ADHD. Disadvantages they may face – for my children there is very little, we have ensured they have had access to public transport, money matters, shopping facilities, food shopping and the world at large nothing should come as a surprise. A highly individualised programme of learning with the child at the front and centre with facilitation to access is the perfect child led autonomous form of education. Children learn best when they do not realise they are learning and as such we pursue learning as a way of life not because it is demanded between 9 and 3 Monday to Friday.

The support for health related matters and those of support through education the disappointing part of it all is that certain arms of health (nominally through education such as autism and ADHD diagnostics) are denied to home educated children based on their educational choice of their parents. It is also becoming increasingly apparent even routine hospital appointments are now met with a quizzing as to if they have friends and are they happy which I find quite offensive given I suspect schooled children are equally as unhappy at school but are not given opportunities to field this information other that missed days with faked illness to avoid it for one day. Disadvantages for the children – for those parents who are supportive there are very little if any – they provide for all needs and support desires and wishes. It is child led and child centred in this house and that has been so for more than [number] years.

No financial support means there can be no directional prescription and this is where it should remain. Money comes with strings it should be a families personal choice if they want to accept what is on offer – exam fees, money for books of educational nature etc.

The regulatory framework will never cover illegal schools as where there is an opportunity and means there will be intent. But to include home education cooperatives in the illegal school category – then register them and ensure what they do is safe but do not prescribe their offer as that in itself constitutes simply parents helping other parents where they have expertise as after all many of us did have university level education prior to our children and we all had jobs and lives and lived experiences.

There are already regulatory frameworks for ensuring schools provide and adequate education for students however the current them and us position is appalling and pits the school against the parent with the child constantly missing out – with a blame the parent culture and the poor funding of SEND all having an effect. It is clear that schools do not have adequate training or funding to deal with the ever changing needs of their ‘clients’, the pupils and that their needs must come first. We are leaving our children in vulnerable adult positions at post 16 as schools and their curricula offerings are as antiquated as the century they were designed and implimented. It is high time for change and the children should lead the way.

Inspection has no role directly for the future of home education directly but I do believe it should monitor the local authorities and how they treat their home education communities and how they engage with them and how they work in coproduction with them ensuring they use the stake holders and the advocates and primary professionals surrounding their children as they should in school. We as home educators are simply a different cohort – not a different species. Academic achievement should not be held as the only smart and measureable KPI but you should also measure happiness and the overall wellbeing of the child and family and the lack of stress or pressure to conform or fight with schools for resources for statutory requirements as it is exhausting for everyone.

What improvements have been made – sadly none that I can see. No improvements at all.  In fact we completed a call for evidence previously which seems to have been buried as the consolation was never published.

I think if I were to wish for anything is that now the world has had a taste to actually praise us not demonise us – we go to great and creative lengths to provide for our children to ensure they get the best start they can.

The impact of covid on us – negatively we have not been able to make use of the great resources we have in terms of museums, hands on stuff like that but the adaptation to on line has been a fantastic flip over. To mitigate further negatives – treat us like a cohort and allow us to mix in bubbles and to continue our in person education classes as schools are allowed to as the soft learning which happens in person is not completely crossed over to on line learning. Yes children need children and they need opportunities to socialise by removing the ability to by not including elective home education within the framework of school cohort bubbles the situation forecloses on our opportunities.

November 2020