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UK Government Inquiry Into Homeschooling

On 30th September 2020 the UK government launched an inquiry into home schooling. See my response and make sure you have yours.

The UK Parliament Inquiry Into Home Schooling September 30th to November 6th 2020

Below I have listed the criteria found on the website https://committees.parliament.uk/call-for-evidence/255/home-education/ and I have also given my response. You may well have more information but I have put this together to support families who have just set up and may be unsure about all the areas in the inquiry.

The inquiry asks for anyone associated to homeschooling, parent or business to respond by 6th November 2020. It is a max on 3,000 words but can be as little as you wish. Please share amongst groups and friends as many people I know didn’t know about it. We need to ensure our voices are heard!

  • The duties of local authorities with regards to home education, including safeguarding and assuring the quality of home education;

The current model of EHE should be adequate to report on safeguarding and quality of home education. Children slip through the net in schools and other professional services where there are a great number of policies designed to protect them. I think most families where there are potentially children at risk are already known to social services.

I would question what the EHE regard as assuring the quality of home education. Having been in education for 20 years, the latter 9 as a headteacher, I can honestly say that now I home educate my own children I do not follow all aspects of the National Curriculum and my children’s home learning in no way represents that of learning in a school. In my own view, the National Curriculum is no longer fit-for-purpose for preparing the next generation with the fundamental skills needed in a 21century world, nor is it inspiring. I believe what the EHE should be looking for is progress – in whatever curriculum/learning direction the family have decided to take, they know the child best and will have worked out what suits that child, what makes them tick and how to get the best out of them, something which can’t often be done in mainstream education.

  • whether a statutory register of home-educated children is required

I can see why you would want a register, for the purpose of data and for tracking families. It does however feel to me like it is another freedom taken from people, in terms of their right to educate their children as they see fit and I don’t feel it necessary to impose a register.

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

The benefits can be huge:

  • The concerns I had around my son’s additional needs have almost been eradicated due to making the decision to homeschool and being able to focus intervention when he needs it and not when it is timetabled!
  • Both my children are now able to focus on their interests. I have found this to naturally cover a broad and balanced curriculum.
  • The opportunity to explore and be led by their passions, which rarely exists in the current national curriculum. Allowing them to follow their passions has led to increased amount of learning, particularly as their journeys within their passions take on different dimensions.
  • My children have so much more time to be as creative as they are naturally inclined to be. They develop and adapt ideas that are often not planned but sparked by imagination or something that has inspired them.
  • Learning is less surface-level and tends to lead to deep dives into subject areas – schools aspire to allow opportunities for children to show greater depth but are unable to due to the lack of flexibility within subjects and timeframes. Home educated children get lots of opportunity to embed learning and address misconceptions within learning.
  • They get far more one-to-one time which develops learning at a faster rate.
  • They are listened too, their ideas and natural curiosities are allowed to develop, questions are not suppressed but explored and researched.
  • Children have more time to talk about everything and feel heard. This enhances their literacy skills. I vividly remember in school everyone having a talk partner so when the teacher asked a question more people got a chance to express the answers, but sadly this kind of time constraint to answer something is often a turn off and children struggle to gather their thoughts while the whole class go into a frantic mode of discussion.
  • Home schooled children seem to be confident to talk to peers, parents and people in the community. I am constantly hearing things like, lovely to see a young boy so interested. My son recently commented that he worries about failing and that this has stemmed from when he was in school and his work was marked, he hated seeing the things he got wrong.
  • Mixed age learning is also huge benefit, in terms of the informal social groups that develop in home school communities – relevant to future working and living cross ages natural in wider society. Where in society do we only work or socialise with people of the same age? If they are like minded or share the same passions home educated children tend create connections whatever their age. I have seen countless moments where the interaction between mixed aged children has been developmentally significant for both children.
  • The opportunity for learning around friendships – relationships within homeschooling are much deeper as they tend to involve parents being around during social sessions. This enables more time to deal with fall outs and potential bullying situations. My son has particular benefitted from being scaffolded around social norms.
  • Children have a better experience of real life and are able to deal with real life issues such as money management, working collaboratively and working across age phases.
  • Probably the biggest benefit for me is the whole family benefit, we have a really good understanding of one another and a really close bond. The children understand what it is to work, run a house and are in touch with their emotions because they witness and are part of it through our life. Something I know will serve them well in the future.
  • The day is not restricted to a rigid timetable as it is in school, families are able to schedule work and events more fluidly.
  • Health and well-being is central to everything we do and therefore I expect that my children will have a much better understanding of how to look after, listen and respect themselves than mainstream educated children.

In terms of potential disadvantages:

  • I was initially concerned that my children would be disadvantaged around the social side of things. I was wrong though and pleased that within 6 months my children were more socially able than they had been at school, through the various home education grouping that are prevalent. The opportunity to be social in safe settings, with the support of parents was hugely valuable for my children. Nothing forced, just given the opportunity to observe and slow dip their toes in until they felt comfortable to interact. My son suddenly started playing with other children, previously in school he had spent his time wondering around on his own.  He is now independent, really articulate and able to stand up for himself and others.
  • 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;

I have to say this is a big area of concern, we were lucky enough to be able to pay private assessments of my son, we were told by our GP that we would have to wait 2 years for an assessment. To wait any length of time is tricky but people have told me they are generally having to wait at least 2 years to be seen or get any kind of advice. In my opinion, that is a similar story in schools. My point being, whether you home educate or not, every child should have the access to this kind of support. This summer we witnessed the terrible treatment of homeschool children in relation to sitting GCSEs, where is the equality in that? They were an after-thought, again because no-one was representing them. I heard today that any kind of previous support for home schooling families looking to take GCSE now ceases to exist? Why and where is the signposting for families?

  • 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’;

I have not come across any family using unregistered schools. I have witnessed this off-rolling first hand  during my teaching profession but also within the vast number of home school communities that I belong, with parents being told that if they don’t home educate their children they will end up being excluded as schools have no resources for them. Often these children are the ones waiting for a diagnosis of additional need or not able to cope with the more rigid timetable and lesson structure that has developed in schools.

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

Inspections are led by data, I have led 3 inspections and experienced many more within my time in the teaching profession. They used to be about children and the feeling of the school, what staff, parents and children said about the school. Now they are led purely by data with no discussion about the story behind the children that are not where they should be, even though they might be making huge amounts of progress. In my view there is NO role for inspection in home education.

  • 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;

None! I recently contacted 152 LAs within the UK to share an app that I have created for home schoolers (my app www.collageapp.co.uk is for homeschool families to track and store their child’s progress). I kept detailed notes about the LA’s that replied and the quality of their website in terms of providing support.  There were 7 LA websites that stood out in terms of their quality of provision. Many had no contact details at all.

Three years ago we were offered a free subscription to an online learning programme called Espresso, this did not continue.

I feel sad that the government is saving money while children get home educated, approx £4,000 per child and over 60,000 children in the UK being homeschooled, that makes £240,000 a year, but where does that go? If it goes back to LAs then there needs to be some accountability or home educators say as to what and how they spend our money.

Perhaps there is scope for utilising this £4,000 per child ‘saving’ to provide home-schoolers with education incentives, such as vouchers for music lessons, examination fees or additional ‘curricular’ incentives.

  • 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.’

It made it hard to socialise within their normal groups without completing arduous risk assessments, no sample models or guidance was supplied. These are groups where children get to free play and be social across age phases, with no focus on learning.

I have already mentioned the horrendous treatment of homeschool children this summer with regards to the GCSE fiasco. It feels like there is no one with any authority to represent home schoolers and ensure equality in these situations.