Submission to the Select Committee on Education

Re Home Education;



The duties of local authorities with regards to home education, including safeguarding and assuring the quality of home education are three-fold;


- to ensure Social Workers are properly trained and supported in understanding their duties and in delivering the service which they are already empowered to deliver


-to ensure LA staff are similarly properly trained and supported in understanding their duties and in delivering the advisory service which they are already empowered to deliver


-to liaise with local schools and colleges to ensure that no one is off-rolled in  defiance of the law

and to facilitate access to examinations.

Whether a statutory register of home-educated children is required;



No. My experience is that when the attitude that the officials know best drives the agenda it is children who are most harmed as their needs are sidelined in favour of the imposition of a top-down agenda driven by bureaucrats who do not know the child. Children already have champions; they are their parents. Whilst there may be causes where the State has to step in because of abuse or absence, these are very much the exceptions. State intervention and supervision are, and need to remain, a safety net for clear cases where there is established evidence of neglect It is not in any way the default for all children, neither should it ever be.I have met so many heroic Childrens Champions over the past few years; all of them parents, many of them finding themselves facing criticism for doing what they knew their child needed whether this was provision in school or otherwise and trying, often desperately, to defend themselves and their child from policies which were causing harm. As a Form Tutor in a school I was constantly mindful of the fact that I was a delegate and answerable to the child's parents. We need to ensure that the judgement of those who know and love children best drives agendas and only then will we all be really putting children first. Registration is unnecessary and introducing it would result in poorer outcomes for children.

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


All parents with minor children are home educating; all loving parents home educate from birth, whether or not their child goes to a school. Those who do it full time just have more time to follow their instincts and to meet their own child's unique needs. And loving parents are very good at that. As a former mainstream teacher I've realised that effective home education is often about facilitation and being a good mentor. You do not need a teaching certificate. Some of the most effective home educators I've seen had no higher level qualifications but what they all shared was a deep understanding of their child, of his or her needs, communication strategies and learning styles, a humility to realise that no one knows everything, together with an enthusiasm for research and making connections with others in such a way that their child's needs were met to an extent which would not have been possible had the child been in school, even with the best of Teaching Assistants.


Children who learn with their parents at home and with other home educators have that relaxed, protected space, rich, multi-age community context and varied input which yields truly impressive results in terms of self-assurance, a sense of responsibility for learning and for others, motivation for learning and excellent social skills. The cherry on the cake is the academic achievement. I've seen HE students, who I know would have struggled in my classroom even with the best support, blossom in the context of HE and achieve a level of skills and a grasp of knowledge which would only have been achieved by the most able children I was seeing in school.


The disadvantages come primarily as a result of discrimination; two negative influences which need addressing are firstly the exclusion of private candidates by the boards from sitting certain exams coupled with lack of exam centres and secondly the way in which some officials and school staff try to impose programs on families which not only fail to meet the child's needs but which can be actively harmful to the child. When staff have their own agenda and want to control families too often this ends in grievous injustice in their scape-goating of parents for institutional failures. When home educated children are granted equal access to public examinations and where schools and LA staff listen to and respect parents and facilitate this access to exams, things can go very well.

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;


Budget cuts are a problem yet the worst aspect is not under-funding. It is policies and attitudes which try to turn teachers into enforcers of policies which often run counter to their better judgement and which fail to engage with parents and to listen to them. 


The word "support" is too often twisted to mean "control".


What families need from LAs are;

-access to exam centres


-advice *when it is asked for*

-ensuring any benefits and heath and other provision to which families are entitled are facilitated


What they do not need;

-to be told what to do

-to be constantly monitored

- to have "help" offered which is conditional on the parents surrendering their judgement as to how to best proceed



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’;




Yes it is. Where problems arise it is as a result of social workers refraining from using powers they already have.


The message increasingly is that children are at risk and that the danger from which they need protecting is their parents. The reality is starkly at odds with this assertion. As a former teacher and form tutor I know just how hard staff work in schools to try and keep children safe and with what devotion and yet also how increasingly unsafe the school environment has become. As a former Special Needs teacher at a psychiatric unit for adolescents I know how keenly both medical and educational staff care about meeting the particular needs of children and yet there is a crisis in school and general institutional support for children with Special Needs.Time and again I have met parents who express deep concern about how they are being routinely overruled in their judgments concerning their own children. In fact although many parents now opt for very good reasons to home educate ab initio, more and more parents who would never probably have thought of home educating, de-register for precisely this reason; in order to ensure that their child receives the bespoke education which they need and which is unavailable at school.It would be a tragedy for the child if the kind of negative influence to which they were subject in their particular school setting were permitted to spill over into provision otherwise than at school. This already happens in those regrettable cases in which LA staff suffer from mission creep and begin to act ultra vires. This kind of interference would be much more common if monitoring were mandatory.


There are already robust procedures in places for the (rare) cases in which a child attends an unregistered school, and in the (commoner) cases in which he or she has been formally excluded from school, or has been subject to ‘off-rolling’.

It is simply a question of making sure that these exceptions to the rule are properly addressed by the authorities, under the framework which is already in place.

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



Inspections were designed as a tax-funded service to citizens with the aim of providing information to parents so that they, in their role as primary educators, could make informed decisions regarding the suitability of a school for their child.They were never designed to inspect families for the benefit of officials.Elected representatives and employees of the State are accountable to citizens and not the other way about


We no more need inspectors for education otherwise than that provided by the State than we need them to monitor and control diet or exercise. Many believe that the average child does not eat sufficient vegetables and could probably do with more time in the fresh air playing some healthy game. This may or may not be the case but it is up to the parents to decide whether to have chickpea curry and green beans or chicken and chips for dinner and whether it is time to put down the gadget and go out to play. Similarly, it is up to parents to decide whether their child would benefit more from spending the morning reading a classic novel or from meeting with friends to play Maths games. And this is how it should remain. 


We already have Social Workers for cases of neglect. Where parents are loving parents they neither neglect to feed them nor do they neglect to educate them. Loving parents are remarkably inventive and persistent. Time and again I have observed that regardless of whatever deprivations or challenges they face, they invariably find a way to meet their child's needs. What is needed is genuine support.


There has been great fudge in this area on the part of those pressing for mandatory inspection of families. We must be clear about both our language and about what is intended and of the consequences both in terms of civil liberties and of outcomes for children. Local Authority Education Advisors may provide an opt-in service for those families who find it useful and who request it. On the other hand, the prospect of officials designated and empowered to enter homes uninvited and to interview children against their own wishes and those of their parents, even possibly on their own , is not only ghastly, it would be an infringement of the right to privacy and a family life of both children and parents. The resulting pressure and distress would impact very negatively on the education and wellbeing of children.


A well-regarded and eloquent lawyer observed to me that when his son had particular needs in school he was not listened to; in his professional capacity he was taken seriously but when he was "simply [Nathan's] dad" he was ignored. "Nathan" was de registered and did very well indeed out of home education . When it comes to understanding a child his or her parents are the real experts. Officials, family and friends may set out a range of options but it is the parent who has the responsibility and the capacity to decide. Decisions with regard to a child need to be taken by those who know and love that child best and in the absence of evidence to the contrary, the best way to educate and to safeguard a child is to assume that these people are his or her parents.


OFSTED already has the power and duty to identify, inspect and close illegal and unregistered schools. Schools already have the responsibility to ensure children are only de-registered with parental consent. Social workers already have the power and duty to investigate families suspected of neglect. None need additional powers to address neglect, off-rolling or unregistered schools; all simply need to be held to account to ensure that they use the existing powers consistently and effectively and that they show respect for the judgment of a child's primary educators; his or her mother and father. There are very serious issues with safeguarding but these have to do not with parents but with institutional failure; Social services failing to follow up and investigate even where there is clear evidence of neglect or abuse, schools off-rolling pupils they do not want without parental consent, inspectors forgetting what they were appointed to inspect.

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; 



Since then we have had a clear baseline from which to challenge officials who had forgotten their remit to provide support and who were acting ultra vires and we have had a small number of funds available for examination fees for those families who chose to register with the local Authority and whose children were 16 when they sat the exam but I am not aware of any other benefits. Where LA officials remember their remit to support and advise where asked, they can be very helpful for those families who choose to approach them.



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.’



The reminder needs to go out to government, local authorities and exam boards that no parent should be required to choose between home educating without access to public exams on the one hand or putting their child in a school with access on the other. This is not a genuine choice that respects either the right of the parent to decide and the child to equal opportunities. The various educational options rightly available to parents, who are the best suited to decide, should all have equality of access to exam papers and public exams. It is obvious when you state it but the point is that policy makers and those who implement them need continual reminders.


For some years examination boards have been paying lip service to equality of access to public examinations for all candidates but in practice discriminating against them by refusing to accept registration from them for certain qualifications and by refraining from giving institutions any incentive to act as an examination centres for them. In addition the Boards routinely lock out private candidates from certain past papers which are available to their schooled peers.

As a private candidate, registering for and sitting exams often feels like wading through candy-floss or even treacle.. under normal circumstances . This year private candidates had the additional stress of having much greater uncertainty than even their schooled peers as the assessment route for those exams which had been cancelled was highly problematic. Most ended up postponing until November. As a result of the stress caused to the few diligent colleges and schools kindly acting as examination centres for private candidates, many felt they could no longer face the prospect of accepting private candidates in the future with the result that many of them have announced that they will not be taking registrations next year. This leaves most home educated students nationally now in great doubt about where or indeed whether they will be able to sit their examinations in future.

It seems to me that the best solution would be three fold. 


Firstly discrimination against private candidates should be recognised as unlawful; an obligation should be placed on the boards to accept registrations for all subjects offered to schools from home educated students and to make available all of the same materials to both groups. 


Secondly, an obligation should be placed on Local Authorities to ensure that there is at least one examination centre in their area where private candidates can register for public examinations. Parents contribute via taxation to the education budget whether or not their child is at school and all should be able to find places for their child to sit exams. Any legislation should simply require Local Authorities to apply some of their education budget to paying a local school to act as a centre or in the absence of a school willing to accept the role, to setting one up themselves. 


Thirdly, each family should receive , say, ten GCSE examination entry vouchers and three A level or equivalent entry vouchers , in the manner of child benefit, indeed whether or not families receive child benefit, as a one off blanket benefit for each child. They could then hand these to the school if the child was in school or hand them to the examination centre on registration for an exam if home educated. These would need to be string -free and come directly from central government . If government can find the funds to pay for people's restaurant meals it can honour tax paying parents legitimate aspirations to have their child entered for public examinations.





I ask the committee to come up with proposals which hold Social Services, schools and OFSTED to account reminding them of their role as public servants, which reaffirm  parents as the best champions of their own children and which recognise the great achievements of those families educating otherwise.



5th November 2020


Karen Rodgers,