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.]

Dear Sir/Madam,

I am writing with evidence to support your reviews around support for home-schooled children and their families.

Over the last [time period] my daughter, aged [age], has attended school for just half a term. In [school year] the intense pressure resulted in massive anxiety and we deregistered her.  She returned to school in [school year], however a massive arthritis flare and a short-term absence resulted in school refusal (this was bubbling since she started secondary.) She currently remains on roll, to avoid her being potentially lost in the system and her special needs not recognised or met.

She is awaiting an autism diagnosis, however we are informed that this may take 2 years. We have just been refused an EHCP, which would allow her to access an alternative school more suited to her needs.

A home environment is better for her for the following reasons

We are currently trying to access an EHCP for her as there are a few ways in which it is difficult to meet her needs

For her these are potential disadvantages, although alongside these she is developing maturity and ability to communicate with adults well, a depth of learning in her areas of interest and a knowledge of areas she wouldn’t study at school.

Another massive disadvantage for us as a family is that, although I am a trained teacher, I am unable to work. Lack of financial support alongside the cost of home-educating a child makes paying for resources difficult. Funding (or vouchers) of some kind should be available to support home-educated pupils, especially when the child is unable to access the education system due to a disability or special need. This is discrimination!

After we deregistered we have had minimal/no contact or support from the LEA (only a letter acknowledging our deregistration, but no visit or phone call.) A supportive educator/specialist may have been useful to us during this time, although children with school related difficulties often find it difficult to have visitors in their home. The support we have received during lockdown has been non existent. As a teacher, and a mum who enjoys being with my children this hasn’t really been a problem. If I were less educated or there were a safeguarding concern from school, maybe there would have been some support or contact? Who knows?

I would like to see local provision of activities and flexible arrangements for home-schooled children to attend – with carers if necessary and perhaps provision of some more practical subjects that are largely only available to older students, eg animals studies, as this would significantly increase engagement for many children. We used to regularly attend a forest school with [conservation organisation], which was excellent but due to funding this has now stopped.

Many people who home-educate their children, myself included, believe that the current education system is seriously and dangerously flawed. It has become a force-feeding process, a barrage of testing which in my experience has been detrimental to engagement and performance. I would rather the education of my children be more ‘free range’ and natural…no wonder there is a mental health epidemic in our young people! 

Any support offered to home-educators should bear in mind that the philosophy behind education is different and that the idea of a ‘well educated’ child looks very different to different people. Children need to be allowed the freedom to explore learning and become who and what they want to be, rather than being squeezed into a system which elevates one job, skill or learning area over another.

In addition to reviewing the home-schooling sector, it would be prudent to do so with the school system, many children (mine included) would still be in it if it were not so dysfunctional.

November 2020