1. In England, education is compulsory, schooling
is not. Parents have a duty to educate their child in a manner
appropriate to the child's age, ability and aptitude and to any
special educational needs that the child may have, either through
regular attendance at school or otherwise.
Within this framework one option open to families is to home educate
2. There are currently no definitive data on the
number of children who are home educated in England. The lower
estimate is 45,000; higher estimates are 80,000 and 150,000.
This compares to the 7.3 million children currently attending
maintained primary, secondary and special schools in England,
though the number of home educated children is believed to be
growing steadily. The
80,000 estimate already represents the equivalent of 1% of the
3. On the basis of international comparisons, the
current legislative framework for home education in England is
The case law definitions of a suitable education cited in the
Department's 2007 guidelines on home education are only loosely
worded, while those same guidelines emphasise the freedoms that
home educators have in designing their education provision. Home
educating parents are not required to, for example, teach the
National Curriculum or otherwise provide a broad and balanced
education. They need not set hours during which education will
take place, or give formal lessons. They are not obliged to assess
formally their child's progress or set development objectives
for them. They are similarly not obliged to reproduce school-type
peer group socialisation for their child.
4. It is also the case that home educating families
are not required to have any ongoing contact with their local
authority in relation to their child's education.
5. At the same time, local authorities are under
a duty to act where it appears that a child is not receiving a
suitable education. Home education remains an anomaly as regards
the safeguarding duties of local authorities (see pages 16 and
22-24 of this report).
6. It is within this context that some local authorities
and others have raised concerns about the ability of local authorities
to fulfil what they understand to be their responsibilities in
relation to home educated children. They claim that, as there
are no specific requirements on home education provision, and
as contact with the local authority is voluntary, they have no
real means of assuring themselves as to the education or welfare
of home educated children, or, indeed, of identifying those children
in the first place. Some home educators have, in addition, continued
to point out the poor levels of support that they receive from
their local authority in terms of access to services.
These concerns persist despite the Department having initiated
a series of consultations and research linked to home education,
including in relation to the aforementioned guidelines.
7. This prompted the Department to commission an
independent review of elective home education in England, which
was undertaken by Mr Graham Badman, former Managing Director of
the Children, Families and Education Directorate for Kent County
Council. The review was announced in January 2009. It was asked
- the barriers to local authorities/other public
agencies in carrying out their responsibilities for safeguarding
home educated children;
- the extent to which claims of home education
could be used as a 'cover' for child abuse such as neglect, forced
marriage, sexual exploitation or domestic servitude;
- whether local authorities are providing the right
type, level and balance of support to home educating families;
- whether any changes to the current regime for
monitoring the standard of home education are needed to support
the work of parents, local authorities and other partners in ensuring
that all children achieve the Every Child Matters outcomes.
The review gathered evidence through a literature
review, consideration of existing law and guidance, and interviews
and consultations with key stakeholders.
8. The review ReportReport to the Secretary
of State on the Review of Elective Home Education in England (the
Badman Report)was published in June 2009. While its recommendations
have been broadly welcomed by some, including local authorities
and children's organisations, they have been subject to strong
criticism in other quarters, including from home educators and
academics. The most controversial recommendations are those concerned
with registration and monitoring. These include the call to introduce:
compulsory annual registration; annual home visits by local authority
officers; a right for local authority officers to interview a
child away from the child's parents where this was deemed appropriate;
a right for local authorities to refuse or revoke registration
on safeguarding grounds; a requirement on home educating families
to submit each year a statement of educational approach, intent
and desired/planned outcomes; and a revised definition of what
constitutes a "suitable" education.
9. Many home educating families regard these recommendations
as unnecessary given existing safeguarding legislation. They believe
that the recommendations undermine the principle of innocent until
proven guilty, and allow the state an unprecedented intrusion
into family life, blurring who has ultimate responsibility for
a childthe parent or the state. They fear that the recommendations
could undermine 'autonomous education', a popular educational
approach among home educators, whereby a child learns by following
his or her interests and enthusiasms.
10. As well as raising concerns about the robustness
of the evidence base presented by the review team for its recommendations,
some home educators feel that they have been maligned by what
they see as an insinuation in the Report and related comments
in the media of a link between home education and children being
at risk of harm.
11. The Badman Report also makes a number of recommendations
that are intended to improve the support and services that local
authorities are able to make available to home educating families,
and to facilitate communication between the two parties to this
12. Our inquiry considered both the conduct of the
review and the recommendations contained in its Report.
13. The Secretary of State announced, on publication
of the Badman Report, his intention to take forward the Report's
registration and monitoring recommendations.
The Department's consultation on its proposals closed on 19 October.
The Children, Schools and Families Bill, which includes registration
and monitoring proposals that are largely in line with the Department's
original plans, was introduced to the House on 19 November. It
is not acceptable that the Bill was published before the Department's
analysis of the response to its consultation. The Department still
had not completed that analysis when we came to publish our report.
14. In October the Department also published its
full response to the Badman Report, where it confirmed that it
would take action to improve support for and access to services
on the part of home educating families.
15. We announced our call for evidence on 22 July
2009. By the end of the inquiry we had received nearly 200 written
memoranda. We held two oral evidence sessions in October, through
which we took evidence from Mr Badman, the Department, current
and former home educators (some of whom were involved with local
home education groups or national home education charities), local
authority representatives, and national children's organisations.
A list of those who submitted written evidence and those who gave
oral evidence appears at the end of this report. In addition,
as part of the inquiry we held an informal meeting with a number
of home educating parents and their children, and another with
a group of local authority officers, each of which also informed
our report. A note of these meetings can be found at the end of
1 Section 7, Education Act 1996. Back
e.g. see Hopwood et al, The Prevalence of Home Education in England:
a feasibility study, DCSF Research Report, 2007, paragraph 1.8. Back
DCSF, Pupil Characteristics and Class Sizes in Maintained Schools
in England: January 2008 (Provisional), April 2008. Back
Monk, D., 'Problematising home education: challenging 'parental
rights' and 'socialisation'', Legal Studies, 2004. Back
e.g. INCA (International Review of Curriculum and Assessment
Frameworks Internet Archive), country profiles, www.inca.org.uk.
See also, Ev 4-5, paragraphs 31-34 (DCSF) Back
DCSF, Elective Home Education Guidelines for Local Authorities,
2007, paragraphs 2.3, 3.13. Back
See, Ev 2, paragraphs 6-9 (DCSF) Back
In 2004 the DfES consulted on the draft Elective Home Education
Guidelines. These were then shelved and then re-issued in 2005
for full public consultation once again. The guidelines were published
in 2007. In 2006 the DfES commissioned the research report The
Prevalence of Home Education in England: a feasibility study.
The aims of the study were to assess the possibility of determining
the prevalence of home education in England, and to gather information
on the characteristics of home educated children, the reasons
why parents elect to home educate, and the methods they use. In
2008 the DCSF consulted on the draft Guidance on Identifying Children
Missing an Education, published 2009. Back
Badman Report, Annex A. Back
Secretary of State's letter to Graham Badman (the Government's
initial response), 11 June 2009. See also, www.hmg.gov.uk/buildingbritainsfuture.aspx. Back
DCSF, DCSF Response to the Badman Review of Elective Home Education
in England, October 2009. Back