MPs to look at ‘more active’ inspection role in new home education inquiry

MPs have launched an inquiry into home learning which will include looking at the role inspections should play in the future regulation of home educating.

The education select committee has announced today it will be investigating how home-educated children are being supported in their learning and also looking at the impact the Covid-19 pandemic has had on children educated at home.

It will also look at duties of local authorities, and the potential role for inspections in ensuring standards.

Conservative MP Robert Halfon, committee chair, said while the pandemic has brought a “new focus” on learning at home, “there are thousands of young people who are ordinarily taught outside of a traditional school setting”.

The committee says that figures from March last year suggested that more than 60,000 children were being home educated in England, with the number increasing in recent years.

They say it is likely the number is underreported as parents are not required to register their home-educated children with the local authority.

Halfon added they have to make sure “disadvantaged children are not disadvantaged further still by the system”.

“The previous Committee in the last Parliament highlighted the problem of off-rolling, where young people are removed from school for the benefit of the school rather than the child, and the dangers of the lack of checks on unregistered provision, where some home-educated children may spend time.

“This inquiry provides an opportunity to examine whether local authorities and inspections can play a more active role to ensure every child is safe and not missing out on the chance to climb the educational ladder of opportunity.

“We have to make sure that disadvantaged children are not disadvantaged further still by the system.”

In April 2019, the government published a consultation on proposed legislation concerning children not in school, which included a proposal for a register of children not attending mainstream schools, maintained by local authorities. The government has not published its response.

Halfon added: “A parent will always know what is best for their child but we want to make sure that the right support is in place for home learning to ensure every pupil in the country, whatever their background and wherever they are taught, can receive the education they deserve.”

The committee is inviting written submissions, including on the duties of local authorities and the advantages and disadvantages children may face from home education.

It is also asking for submissions on the role inspection should play in future regulation of home education and the support, including financial support, available for home educators and their children.

The deadline for submissions is November 6.

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  1. J Pointon

    As a reminder, home educated children are not pupils for the purpose of the Education Act 1996 and are not subject to the same ‘statutory framework’ as a pupil would be.

    3 Definition of pupil etc.

    (1)In this Act “pupil” means a person for whom education is being provided at a school,…

  2. Blaire Palmer

    Parents are responsible for ensuring their children get an education. That is true whether you home educate or put the education of your child in the hands of school. Monitoring parents who are simply taking full ownership of this responsibility undermines the rights of families in this country. We don’t monitor anyone else who we have no reason to suspect of wrongdoing. Why would we assume home educators were doing something so wrong they needed to be on a list and monitored by social services and state bodies?

    Many, many parents feel school has let their child down, isn’t the right environment for their child, isn’t safe and/or is a completely outdated way to educate children for the future of work we face (I’m a future of work specialist). It’s a factory and, despite the hard work of teachers, we know the system is broken. The former teachers and head teachers who home educate will tell you that when it came to their own children they didn’t trust the system they knew from the inside to do a good enough job.

    Regulation of home ed would subject parents to the standards and pressures imposed by school…the very system they are trying to avoid. If I don’t think school works for my child why would I believe a school inspector would be the right person to judge whether I was doing right by my child or tell me what “good” looks like?

    The evidence is clear – home educated kids outperform school educated kids. And that is despite the fact that a large number of home ed kids have SEN or were struggling at school. Frankly schools and policy makers should be asking us how we do it, seeking our advice to help them fix their broken system, not try to impose their broken system on us. It shows a massive lack of curiosity on the part of government.

    Honestly, look up educational outcomes for home educated kids. We are doing something very special and monitoring, reporting and having to meet measures set by government will damage the quality of the learning, undermine those outcomes and hurt those kids currently thriving as a result of being educated outside the school system.

    I know many will say “how do we know kids are safe at home?” So do we now assume kids are unsafe at home and that the primary reason to send kids to school is so the state can keep an eye on them and ensure we aren’t abusing them? Most abused kids go to school but that doesn’t keep them safe. And some abuse happens in school. Bullying is tolerated. Isolation is imposed. Stress and anxiety are caused. And individuality cannot be allowed to express itself when you have 30 kids to teach. Home educated kids are out in the world. They got to Brownies, football club, home ed meet ups, to the shops, to museums and galleries. They are out in the world more than school educated children. They are seen. Most are known to LAs because they deregistered from school and the LA was automatically informed. This concern about safety seems sensible but is based on assumption parents can’t be trusted with their own children. It’s a dangerous assumption with implications for all families not just those who home educate.

    Before you jump to a conclusion that monitoring is benign talk to home educators and get the facts.

  3. Donna Fitch

    Perspective from a home educator:

    Here’s the thing. They say all these things that sound like they would benefit the home ed community and they make sense – who wouldn’t want to ensure that children reach their potential and are not left to flounder?

    But right now, and as has been the case for years, Local Authority Home Education Officers get minimal training and often know less about home ed than the home ed community. They are not aware of the multitude of resources that are available to home educators. Many come from a schooling background and think that home ed needs to replicate school at home with the use of timetables and the National Curriculum and so are only aware of those resources – the Dunning–Kruger effect.

    If a parent chooses to follow methods used in Finnish schools (one of the best school systems in the world, where formal teaching starts at around 7 years of age) or to follow an “unschooling” education method (which has been covered in academic articles as a valid way of learning), this “authority” with their biases unchecked, can cause issues and by virtue of being employed by the LA, their word is given more weight than the evidence of the parent. While the law clearly states that the onus is on the LA to prove a lack of education, the reality is that the onus is on the parent and this means that one LA HE Officer can cause a multitude of stress and issues for the parent. This is made much more difficult by the fact that the Home Ed departments are regulated by OFSTED – again, with a bias towards formal schooling.

    Issues come in the form of misrepresentation of the law to attempt to monitor and dictate education provision. Issues also come in the form of malicious Social Services referrals – or threats to refer in order to bring about compliance – for parents who refuse to allow LA’s to overstep their remit.

    Furthermore, some LA’s see the home education department as “Social Services Lite”, with their officers turning up unexpectedly and insisting on entering the home to check the premises – this is not mandated by law and for the child with SEN or mental health issues, it can be HIGHLY detrimental to their wellbeing. In addition, parents are not criminals or to be treated suspiciously simply by virtue of home educating and yet, we are supposed to accept this, if the discourse around home education by non-home educators is to be believed. But I would ask – if you are a parent, and bearing in mind that under 5’s are the most at risk of abuse, would you be happy if someone randomly came to your door and demanded entry to check your house simply because you had a preschooler living in your house? I think the answer would be no.

    Home education often does not look like formal state schooling because for many children who are HE, formal schooling does NOT work. If it did, they would be at school. Home Ed is not the same as formal schooling, but it is still a valid form of education and has had many success stories. Many children who are deregistered from school are deregistered because the school failed to meet their needs and all other avenues were exhausted. These children are predominantly those with SEN or mental health issues caused by bullying or too much pressure to perform academically.

    Home educated kids DO see many professionals by virtue of their education taking place in the community. Despite common misconceptions, home education doesn’t mean that they are home all day. Socialisation is important to home educators and they take their duty to provide this seriously. My local area is considered “quiet” in terms of activities for home education, yet we still had the opportunity pre-pandemic to be in organised activities from morning to night, had we wished to. These activities included workshops led by academics, regular meets in woods, or purely social meets for group sports (that’s PE covered too!).

    Some LA’s have a good relationship with their local HE community and this is what all home educators would like to see – a collaborative relationship with a fully informed LA who can advocate for the child in order to help them attain the qualifications they need and for their wellbeing. Afterall, despite scaremongering posts equating home education with hiding abuse, the majority of ALL parents (HE and those that send theirs to school) just want the best for the child.

    One Local Authority, in response to a request for clarification over the COVID restrictions and how to apply this to home education, essentially told the parent that it was not their job to advocate for the home ed child or community. They were merely there to safeguard and check education – which, as this is an LA with whom there have been issues of them overstepping their remit, this was interesting as they certainly thought there remit went beyond that pre-COVID.

    The lack of nation wide training for LA HE Officers is why provision from the LA is inconsistent and shoddy in areas. Home educators do not push back against the LA because they can, they push back to protect their legal rights where the LA’s overstep their remit. So why would home educators be happy about giving the “bad” LA’s more power over them?

    If the government wishes to grant the LA’s more power over home education then it MUST come with proper training and the requisite increase in checks and balances to ensure that LA Officers can not abuse their power more than they already do. Home educators would welcome more help with exams and alternative provision but not if it came with strings attached in the form of dictating provision, intrusive monitoring or red tape by other means.

    No one wants to see children fall through the cracks but we have to balance the need to protect them against the Big Brother suspicion against lawful and good parents that is currently part of the discourse around home education.

    Final note: Data about home education and Child Protection Orders shows that home educators are twice as likely to be referred to Social Services but up to 5 times less likely to end up with a CPO.

    Before the previous consultation, an assertation was being banded around that there was data to prove that home ed was a safeguarding concern. A home educator issued a Freedom of Information request to find out the source of that data. The response was that it must have been mentioned in meeting as it wasn’t covered in the areas requested from the FOI. So another request went in, to cover any minutes from meeting that Secretary of State for Education was in. There was no data. The response was that it must have been made verbally outside of a meeting but that many LA’s had said the same.

    Too often, assertations are made without the data to back it up and then teaching unions, OFSTED, et al, jump on these claims and they become common knowledge. Except where is the proof?

    Parents are being dragged through the mud for trying to protect their children from a virus due to “misinformation” yet who is checking where the Government are getting their “facts” from?

    There is already plenty of research into home education out there, but like a lot of research into education and child development, if it doesn’t fit the Government’s plan, they ignore it.

    The home education debate is a lot more nuanced than the simple “think of the children” narrative being pushed. Please do not erode the rights of parents without holding those tasked to oversee home education to account, simply because you feel it’s the “right thing”, when it could have hugely negative implications for many children.

  4. Jane Lowe

    Amazing that the government don’t think to launch an inquiry into why so many parents are feeling the education system is failing their children? Why schools are failing to meet the needs of children or provide a broad and balanced curriculum and why parents choose NOT to send their children to them! The inspecting of schools and measuring of school performance has led to a one size fits all, dull, indoor, childhood -snatching education so to propose to do this to home Ed defeats its very purpose. Home education is not an easy option and is not one parents enter into lightly. You cannot have an unqualified jobsworth telling parents how to educate their children which is inevitably what would happen if this was passed.

  5. Carol chalkley

    I understand that some children especially those in abusive families or those trafficked for money may not be getting home education as they have very dysfunctional homes or prisons where they are abused and yes those should all be found and offered refuge and education etc. I however give my son a wonderful upbringing and we learn everyday. I do not wish for him to be u informed and be spoken to the way I have heard teachers speak to children. I do not wish for him to be offered vaccinations when he is too young to understand the full implications. I do not wish for a council to run my sons life and send me fines when I have decided to take him on an educational trip. I do not want him to learn sex education in the manner it is taught in schools or religion. I do not want him to be conditioned. I also do not feel classroom is the appropriate place for education especially for boys. I would support financial help to teach him from home myself and with a private tutor for extra maths and languages. I would also appreciate being emailed the topics for the terms but I would choose if I felt they were appropriate for his learning. My sons learning will be led by my son and what he has a passion for and I would not want him to turn out like Boris Johnson or Matt Handcock. Thank you