The Review of Elective Home Education - Children, Schools and Families Committee Contents


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.[1] Within this framework one option open to families is to home educate their child.

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.[2] This compares to the 7.3 million children currently attending maintained primary, secondary and special schools in England,[3] though the number of home educated children is believed to be growing steadily.[4] The 80,000 estimate already represents the equivalent of 1% of the school-age population.

3. On the basis of international comparisons, the current legislative framework for home education in England is relatively permissive.[5] 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.[6]

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.[7] 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.[8]

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 to investigate:

  • 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; and
  • 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.[9]

The review gathered evidence through a literature review, consideration of existing law and guidance, and interviews and consultations with key stakeholders.

8. The review Report—Report 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 child—the 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 end.

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.[10] 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.[11]

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 the report.

1   Section 7, Education Act 1996. Back

2   e.g. see Hopwood et al, The Prevalence of Home Education in England: a feasibility study, DCSF Research Report, 2007, paragraph 1.8. Back

3   DCSF, Pupil Characteristics and Class Sizes in Maintained Schools in England: January 2008 (Provisional), April 2008. Back

4   Monk, D., 'Problematising home education: challenging 'parental rights' and 'socialisation'', Legal Studies, 2004. Back

5   e.g. INCA (International Review of Curriculum and Assessment Frameworks Internet Archive), country profiles, See also, Ev 4-5, paragraphs 31-34 (DCSF) Back

6   DCSF, Elective Home Education Guidelines for Local Authorities, 2007, paragraphs 2.3, 3.13. Back

7   See, Ev 2, paragraphs 6-9 (DCSF) Back

8   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

9   Badman Report, Annex A. Back

10   Secretary of State's letter to Graham Badman (the Government's initial response), 11 June 2009. See also,

11   DCSF, DCSF Response to the Badman Review of Elective Home Education in England, October 2009. Back

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Prepared 16 December 2009