Memorandum submitted by Richard and Marina Simpson
l Home Educated children cover a broad spectrum of educational needs and desires and this needs to be reflected in the support offered to them (para 1 & 2).
l The research carried out to date into home education is of a poor quality and proper research should be undertaken before any legislation is introduced (para 3).
l Home education is becoming more popular. Perhaps it would be useful to find out why? (para 4).
l If children are to be interviewed out of their parents' hearing then strict safeguards should be provided. For example... (para 5)
l The quality of a child's education should not be assessed by measuring the ability or lack thereof of the parents. It is the child and its progress which counts. (para 6 & 7)
l Local authorities should not have the power to remove a family's right to home educate. This power should only rest with the courts. (para 8)
1. Home Educated children are not a cohesive whole, but consist of a spectrum of families with many different needs and desires. At one end their may be those who are fully committed to the ideal of home education and well able to provide it, whilst others are doing so out of need and may desire to return their children to mainstream education. This spectrum of needs suggests a spectrum or response. For some families a light touch monitoring regime may be sufficient, whilst others may benefit from a range of educational support. In addition to assistance to return to school and possible part time flexi-schooling, other flexi-schooling options might include; provision of specialist tutors to groups of home educated children, officially approved correspondence courses, or perhaps loan of specialist science teaching aids. Some home educated children might benefit from access to and assessment of homework provided to their peers in regular education (for example via internet).
2. Clearly, in order for such a range of flexible schooling choices to be developed, it is necessary to understand better the range of home educating families needs and this can only be done by firstly conducting more rigorous and statistically valid studies into home education and secondly by engaging positively with individual families to ensure that their needs are being met.
3. The lack of properly conducted studies into home education was mentioned by Mr Badman in paragraph 10.2 of his report. However, we feel that the absence of these studies is a serious limitation in the entire process of producing the report. It would be far better to conduct the proper studies desired and only then move forward to produce a report and recommendations on how the current situation could be improved. This is particularly important in areas such as academic attainment and employment success where current data gathering exercises seem to be based on a selection of opinions gathered by questionnaire. This needs to be supplemented by a range of statistically valid and carefully collected data sets.
4. It is clear from many sources that home education is becoming more popular and it is easy to conclude that this review was partly prompted by this increased popularity. Perhaps the government and the committee might usefully conduct some research into the reasons for this increase before rushing to make legislative changes.
5. Recommendation 7 :- We are firmly opposed to
the idea that our child should be questioned out of our hearing, a right not
even enjoyed by the Police. Parents are justifiably concerned that over
enthusiastic or poorly trained officers might put badly worded or leading
questions to the child and then draw erroneous conclusions with possibly
serious consequences for the family. However, if such a procedure cannot be
avoided then we feel strongly that there should be serious safeguards:
6. Recommendation 23 :- "anything else which may affect their ability to provide a suitable and efficient education" This is far too vague a statement and would give local authority officers the power to restrict parents' right to home educate on entirely spurious grounds. We reject the entire notion that one measures the quality of a child's home education by measuring the parents. It is the child and its progress relative to its ability which counts. After all, home educated children are not necessarily educated by their parents. In some cases other relatives or friends might be the primary educators.
7. There are already numerous procedures aimed at locating those who are unable to properly look after their children due to a range or personal or social difficulties. There is no need to duplicate and expand on this for the special case of home education.
8. Recommendation 24 :- This suggests that local authorities would be able to make a decision that a family may not home educate on the basis of some ill defined and unproven concerns. We believe that the right to home educate should only be taken away from parents by the courts (as is currently the case). Parents whose home education registration is to be revoked must have the option to challenge this decision in court and crucially the court must rule on the basis of the education being provided as presented to it, and not on the basis of the local authority's view of that education (again, as is currently the case).