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


Motivations for home educating

16. The Department's guidelines on home education note the many and varied reasons why a family might choose to home educate their child. It lists the following "common reasons":

    —distance or access to a local school;

    —religious or cultural beliefs;

    —philosophical or ideological views;

    —dissatisfaction with the system;


    —as a short term intervention for a particular reason;

    —a child's unwillingness or inability to go to school;

    —special educational needs; and

    —parents' desire for a closer relationship with their children.[12]

We elaborate on this list below.

17. Those home educating families with whom we met as part of our inquiry and those who submitted written evidence gave broadly similar reasons to one another for home educating. A common motivation was concern about the nature of schooling, including the impact of testing on children and children's learning. These home educators were also attracted to home education as a lifestyle choice and by the flexibility that it offered in terms of educational approaches. Some parents referred to their wish to educate their child in accordance with their family's religious faith. There were also references to instances where children had been so badly bullied and traumatised by their time at school that they did not feel able to return to a school environment.[13] The failure of local authorities and schools to meet the needs of children with special educational needs (SEN) is well known to this Committee, and home educating parents frequently raised this issue in their evidence to us.[14] Research suggests that home educated children are twice as likely as school educated children to have statemented SEN—5% as opposed to 2.9%.[15]

18. The comments of some of the local authority officers with whom we met as part of our inquiry suggested that the failure to obtain a place for the child at the family's preferred school was another reason for a family to choose to home educate. Equally, the decision to home educate might sometimes be taken 'on the spur of the moment', often as a response to difficulties in relation to the child's schooling, difficulties that might or might not be resolvable.[16]

19. The officers, along with some home educators, also noted a very different section of the home educating population—those children whose parents were encouraged to de-register them from school by their local authority or school. This was referred to elsewhere as "coerced de-registration".[17] Where local authorities and schools encourage parents to de-register their child from school it is typically as a result of a child's poor school attendance, poor behaviour and/or poor attainment. That schools are held accountable on all three is no doubt part of the explanation for this practice.[18] Local authority officers noted how it was often only once the child had been de-registered that they learnt that the family had previously had no intention to home educate.[19]

20. The local authority officers, in addition, discussed the particular implications that home education could have for different sections of the population. For example, two officers noted instances within the Gypsy and Traveller population whereby home educated girls were not being provided with an education after Key Stage 2 (Year 6, age 11).[20]

Relevant recommendations in the Badman Report

21. Pertinent to those instances where the decision to home educate is taken 'on the spur of the moment', the Badman Report recommends that:

    When parents are thinking of deregistering their child/children from school to home educate, schools should retain such pupils on roll for a period of 20 school days so that should there be a change in circumstances, the child could be readmitted to the school (recommendation 1).

At present, a school is required to delete the child's name from its admissions register upon receipt of written notification from the parent that the pupil is receiving education otherwise than at school.[21] The Department has stated that, in order to meet the above recommendation it intends to make the necessary amendments to the Education (Pupil Registration) (England) Regulations 2006.[22]

22. Some home educating parents interpreted the recommendation as intended to pressurise families away from home education. They also pointed to the unease it might cause in the minds of children who were desperate to be removed from school for reasons of bullying.[23] Several of the local authority officers indicated their support for such a 'cooling-off period', suggesting that it would help in instances where the problem that prompted the parent to de-register his or her child from school was resolvable—from both the school's and the parent's point of view.[24]

23. We believe that a child who is de-registered from school to be home educated should be nominally kept on his or her school's roll for 20 school days. This would offer much greater scope for resolving problems where parents had any unease about the prospect of home educating their child. We ask the Department to confirm that the child's absence from school during the 20 days would be treated as authorised absence.

24. In other respects the Badman Report addresses the issues raised by the highly segmented nature of the home educating population by requiring local authorities to improve existing practice. For example, the Report calls on local authorities to analyse the reasons why families in their area choose to home educate and to use that information to inform the development of their Children and Young People's Plans (recommendation 3).[25] The Department has signalled its intention to take forward this recommendation.[26] The Badman Report explicitly calls on the Department to take such action as necessary to prevent local authorities or schools from encouraging parents to de-register their child from school as a means of dealing with behavioural or educational issues (recommendation 15). The aforementioned guidelines already state that schools should not use home education as a means of addressing poor attendance on the part of a child.[27] The Department has stated that it will strengthen its guidance on exclusions when that guidance is next revised in 2010.[28]

25. We welcome the Badman Report's emphasis on local authorities examining the reasons why families in their area choose to home educate. The Badman Report suggests that local authorities address any issues that this process reveals through their Children and Young People's Plans. We suggest that this recommendation should be strengthened: where a parent takes the view that a school has failed his or her child and that his or her only option is to withdraw the child from the school there should be an independent assessment of why this was so, with the school asked to respond to the findings of that assessment.

26. The Badman Report is right to recommend that the Department take action to prevent local authorities and schools from encouraging parents of 'difficult' pupils to de-register their child from school, practice that represents a failure of duty towards the child in question. However, we are not convinced that the Department's proposed response of simply strengthening existing guidance on exclusions is sufficient; the Department should investigate what is driving this practice on the part of local authorities and schools, bearing in mind some of the findings of this Committee's recent inquiry into school accountability.

The home educators who contacted us

27. There are a small number of national home education organisations in England, several of which submitted evidence to our inquiry. They do not, however, claim to be representative organisations.[29] The same could be said of the many local home education groups in England, a number of which also submitted evidence to us.

28. While there are no representative organisations, there are a number of internet-based home education networks, some of which have been used to campaign against the Badman Report. It is difficult to determine how representative these home educators are of the home educating population as a whole.

29. All but one of the home educators and home education organisations who contacted us were highly critical of the Badman Report and were very resistant to the idea that local authorities should be given new powers in relation to the regulation and monitoring of home education. This viewpoint has dominated debate surrounding the Badman Report more generally. On this matter we would note our unease at the reluctance of some to speak publicly on the Badman Report due to fear of harassment from sections of the home educating population.

30. A number of local authority officers suggested to us that, in their experience, the majority of known home educating families welcomed the contact that they had with their local authority.[30] Several of the officers described the very good relations that they had with these families, which in one case had built up over a number of years. Unfortunately, many of the home educators who contacted us were of the view that publication alone of the Badman Report had undermined any goodwill previously in place between home educating families and local authorities. Some referred to families who had ceased contact with their local authority simply because of publication of the Report.[31]

12   DCSF, Elective Home Education Guidelines for Local Authorities, 2007, paragraph 1.4. Back

13   See, for example, Annex 1. Back

14   See, for example, Ev 36-38 (Autism in Mind), Ev 59-61 (Carole Rutherford); EHE 155 (National Autistic Society); Education and Skills Committee, Third Report of Session 2005-06, Special Educational Needs, HC 478; Education and Skills Committee, Tenth Report of Session 2006-07, Special Educational Needs: assessment and funding, HC 1077. Back

15   Hopwood et al, The Prevalence of Home Education in England: a feasibility study, 2007, DCSF Research Report, paragraphs 3.22-3.23. Back

16   Q 94 (Ellie Evans); Annex 2 Back

17   EHE 100, paragraph 1.2.1 (Home Education Research Association) Back

18   Q 96 (Ellie Evans) Back

19   Annex 2 Back

20   See also, Home Affairs Committee, Sixth Report of Session 2007-08, Domestic Violence, Forced Marriage and "Honour"-Based Violence, HC 263, paragraphs 163, 169. Back

21   DCSF, Elective Home Education Guidelines for Local Authorities, 2007, paragraph 3.8. Back

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

23   e.g. see, EHE 20, paragraph 2.4.4. (Bristol Home Educators) Back

24   Annex 2 Back

25   A Children and Young People's Plan is a single, statutory, strategic, overarching plan for all services which directly affect children and young people in the area, showing how the local authority and all relevant partners will integrate provision to improve well-being in relation to the Every Child Matters agenda and focus on specific challenges and priorities. Back

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

27   DCSF, Elective Home Education Guidelines for Local Authorities, 2007, paragraphs 3,12. Back

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

29   Education Otherwise is the largest national home education organisation, with around 4,000 members. Back

30   Annex 2 Back

31   EHE 24, paragraph 8.1 (Marie Stafford); EHE 90, paragraph 5 (Home Education Tyne and Wear); EHE 106, section 6 (Local home education contact in Cumbria). See also, EHE 18, paragraph 2 (Louise Thorn); EHE 42, paragraph 38 (Carol Gray); EHE 69 (Stephen Quinton); EHE 100, paragraph 7.2 (HERA-Home Education Research Association) Back

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Prepared 16 December 2009