Education CommitteeWritten evidence submitted by Fiona Nicholson, independent home education consultant, Sheffield

1. I wish to place on record the fact that home educated children are invariably overlooked in any redesign of the qualifications system. A striking example of this would be the introduction of controlled assessments. Controlled assessments have effectively excluded home educated children from taking GCSEs.

2. The logistics of taking exams as private candidates presents a serious obstacle for home educators.

3. I am making this submission as an independent home education consultant and long-term home educating parent. I am the former Chair of Education Otherwise Government Policy Group and also acted as Trustee and Director of the charitable company. I have given evidence on home education practice and policy to Government Committees in the past.

4. It is thought that around 40,000 children in England are home educated.

5. Home education is to be distinguished from Education Otherwise than at School or EOTAS where the local authority or school retains responsibility for pupils who are out of school for a number of reasons including where the young person is anxious, “school-phobic”, sick, pregnant, a young parent, a young carer, excluded or at risk of exclusion.

6. Local authorities may have between six and 600+ home educated children “on their books.”

7. It is rare to find local authorities able to offer any assistance or advice to home educated young people taking exams as private candidates and it should be borne in mind that local authorities receive no funding for home education.

8. In some cases families would say that they have no choice but to take children out of school and home educate them. This might be where children have been badly bullied at school or where the child’s special needs are not being met.

9. Some families make a considered decision to home educate when their children are very young. There may be philosophical, cultural or religious reasons for their choice.

10. Many home educated young people choose to enter Further Education at the age of 16 but some young people—such as my son—prefer to continue in home education. Discussion of Level 3 exams for 16+ affects home educated young people just as much as Level 1 and 2 exams for pre-16s.

November 2011

Prepared 2nd July 2012