4 Provision of services and other
support for home education |
35. Whilst, as demonstrated in the previous chapter,
provision of funding for home educators divided opinion, significant
evidence called for greater provision of services. These fell
into a number of key areas, which we consider separately below.
36. Government guidance is clear that, when parents
decide to home educate, they should expect to cover all the costs
therein, and specifically includes public examination costs within
that. The Badman
Report recommended that local authorities should "provide
entries free to all home-educated candidates who have demonstrated
sufficiently their preparedness through routine monitoring, for
all DCSF-funded qualifications", which the report of our
predecessor Committee broadly welcomed as part of a package of
increased support, although it raised several concerns about monitoring
of home education.
The Badman Review also recommended that local authorities should
take steps to help home educators find appropriate examination
these two areasaccess and costwere also the central
issues around examinations which were raised in evidence to our
37. We heard some examples of individual schools
and local authorities offering support to home educators in finding
examination centres which would accept external candidates. Gateshead
home educator Karen Thirlaway wrote:
There is excellent support from a high school in
a neighbouring authority, whose staff are very flexible and helpful
with regard to exams for external candidates, access arrangements
and in-house assessment where necessary, and investigating other
exam opportunities outside of their remit where applicable.
Anne Brown, meanwhile, had made arrangements with
a local independent school and suggested that there was further
potential in such a model, as independent schools "have a
duty to be of some good to the community to keep their charitable
Brown also noted, however, that her neighbouring local authority
is more supportive in terms of accessing exams than her own, suggesting
once again the clear 'postcode lottery' from which home educators
suffer.) Other local
authorities, such as North Yorkshire, provide "a place to
sit selected GCSEs".
38. However, these positive examples appeared to
be few and far between. Fiona Nicholson shared with us the results
of her "nerdish survey of all local authorities in England
and their support for access to exam centres for home-educated
children this year":
I have found that only one in eight are doing anything
in the way of even signposting to a local exam centre in a school.
There are 8% who are using a pupil referral unit, but they might
not be able to continue doing that in the future. A similar proportion
are pointing to a further education college. It is the number
one thing home educators will say all the time [...] 'Could you
help with exams? Could you tell me where I can sit exams locally?'
The councils are saying, 'It is nothing to do with us...' It is
a really difficult area and the support is really, really patchy
Jane Lowe agreed that the present situation is "damned
supported by examples from written evidence we received. One parent,
for example, reported travelling "over 200 miles in order
to facilitate one of [our] children to sit one GCSE",
whilst another, having received no support from her local authority
and been refused access at all local schools, finally found a
centre which would accept her child only for the provision to
be subsequently withdrawn.
39. Whilst Fiona Nicholson argued that mandating
local authorities to provide access would be difficult,
other witnesses disagreed. The Home Education Advisory Service
argued that "certainly [...] there should be a duty [on local
authorities] to provide exam facilities",
and it was supported by representatives of local home education
groups who emphasised that "we should at least allow children
who choose to to access exams",
and that "schools should be required to make public exams
available to the general public", not just home-educated
young people but adults as well.
40. Local authority officers also supported free
access to exams for home-educated students: those present at our
July 2012 seminar broadly agreed with this, as did our three oral
evidence witnesses from local authorities, though they noted that
"the practicalities would be something that needed to be
not least because of the implications of coursework and the potential
unwillingness of certain schools.
Fiona Nicholson intimated that the expansion of the Academies
programme (where schools are outside local authority control)
has been cited by some local authorities as an issue in this regard.
41. We also heard from several witnesses that the
costs associated with home-educated children taking public examinations
can be high and at times prohibitive. Louise Kerbiriou summarised
concerns about the unfairness of the present situation:
Despite the fact that we all pay our taxes into the
education system that we do not utilise, when it comes to taking
the exams that are free to children in school we have to pay for
these ourselves at considerable expense and this greatly limits
the number that can be taken in low income families.
Some witnesses cited costs of several hundred pounds,
or more, for a suite of GCSEs alone.
42. The Minister responsible for home education said
she wanted to be "very careful about upsetting the current
said she was "reluctant to intervene [...] when the evidence
suggests that home-educated children, whilst it might be difficult
to get to examinations, are succeeding in getting to examinations".
43. It does
not seem reasonable to us that home educators in some areas have
such a struggle accessing examinations centres for their children.
We recommend that the Government place a duty on every local authority
to ensure access to local centres for home-educated young people
to sit accredited public examinations.
44. As noted
previously, we do not believe that the State ought routinely to
finance home education. That said, many home educators do contribute
to the education system through their taxes, and yet still have
to meet the costs of sitting public examinations. We do not consider
this to be fair, and therefore recommend that the costs of sitting
public examinations be
met by the State. The Department for Education should work to
establish the appropriate level of entitlement, and to which examinations
this ought apply.
Transitions to further education
45. Two national home education support and advice
organisations differed markedly, in their written evidence, when
discussing home-educated young people's transition to post-16
education. Education Otherwise argued that "there is very
little LA support for the transition to further and higher education",
citing a number of specific issues including funding, access,
examinations and changes to Open University fee arrangements.
The Home Education Advisory Service, by contrast, painted a much
more positive picture of the current situation:
HEAS has not found any evidence to suggest that home-educated
students have experienced difficulties in progressing to further
and higher education. There is a wealth of information on the
internet and feedback from families indicates that once the hurdle
of GCSEs has been overcome, A levels and college or university
entrance are relatively straightforward matters.
46. Despite this difference of opinion, it is clearly
important that home-educated young people are able to access post-16
education easily when they, or their parents, choose to do so,
and therefore we
recommend that the Government monitor, as part of the audit previously
recommended, local authorities' current provision of advice regarding
transitions to further education for home-educated young people.
The Government should ensure that local authorities are providing
high-quality advice, through their home education services or
websites, to those who request support.
47. The Minister explained a new policy which might
benefit home educators:
From September 2013 further education colleges will
be able to admit 14 to 15-year-olds on their own say-so rather
than via local authorities. So that will make life easier, I think,
for home educators who seek further education for their children
later on in their educational career.
We congratulate the Government on
giving further education colleges the power to admit 14 to 15-year-olds
directly, and welcome this policy move, which we hope might benefit
home educators as well as others.
Local offers of support
48. As with local authority officers' behaviour and
practices, discussed in Chapter 2 above, our evidence suggested
that local authorities' service provision for home educators and
their families is equally patchy: there is clearly significant
variation in the quality and accessibility of such provision from
one authority area to another.
49. We heard many examples of good or helpful practice.
Sutton Music Service, for example, "waived the requirement
for children to be at school before they can access instrument
Somerset circulates "details of EHE residential courses and
activities" in which families might be interested.
Although Anne Brown's own authority caused her some concerns,
she noted that if she lived "sixteen miles down the road
[...] I would pay less council tax, I would get extra library
books, I would get access to exam centressome very nice
was confirmed by another witness, from Mrs Brown's neighbour authority,
who spoke of Hampshire's support in science lab provision, educational
psychology and visual impairment services.
50. Written and oral evidence made it clear that,
in the words of one witness, "it is very much a local offer
or, as another put it, "provision is a postcode lottery".
Some local authorities are making significant efforts, particularly
given current budgetary and personnel savings, but others clearly
offer far less support for those home educators who request it.
As one witness argued, despite "contributing financially
to the education system by way of [...] taxes", families
sometimes "receive nothing of the help that would be advantageous
to our children and is free to thousands of others".
That parent cited the example of leisure services: swimming lessons,
which are free to school children, cost her £352 a year.
Despite proposing "a mutually beneficial scheme whereby home
educating families gained a reduced rate of entry, meaning that
they would come more often, bring their friends and increase revenue",
that home educator found the local authority unresponsive.
51. The responsible Minister at the DfE thought that
such provision "would be a decision for the local authority".
Ms Truss went on to argue that the DfE does not have a significant
role to play in improving the consistency of provision:
Getting consistency is not necessarily the right
objective [...] I think the right objective is trying to get the
best possible service, but that is an objective that does not
lie in my hands in the Department for Education. That lies in
the hands of local authorities, and it is for the leaders of local
authorities to tell this Committee how they see themselves measuring
up to the best [...] I think we have to be careful in all this
that we do not think that the Government doing things is a panacea
that is going to solve problems on the ground or going to deal
with issues on the ground.
we agree with the Minister's view that local authorities, and
not central Government, must be responsible for service provision
in their area, we do not consider it acceptable that home-educated
young people receive such different levels and quality of support
dependent purely upon their postcode. Local authorities should
be expected to produce a 'local offer of support' for home educators,
stating what services are available, how these differ from those
for parents of schooled children, and enabling home educators
to compare with practice elsewhere. Critically, local offers must
be developed in consultation with home educators and their families.
We recommend that the Department for Education support pilots
for such a scheme, and play a role in monitoring the quality of
local offers and the adherence applied to them by local authorities.
Home-educated young people with
special educational needs and disabilities
53. Government guidance says that, whilst a parent's
right to educate a child at home "applies equally where a
child has SEN", where a child "has a Statement of SEN
and is home educated, it remains the local authority's duty to
ensure that the child's needs are met". Edward Timpson MP,
the DfE minister with responsibility for special educational needs
policy, confirmed during our pre-legislative scrutiny on SEN that
the new Education, Health and Care Plans will have the same legal
status as Statements,
and we therefore assume that the responsibility for ensuring the
provisions are met will remain unchanged and with the local authority.
The same Minister further confirmed, in answer to a written question,
that local authorities cannot refuse to undertake assessments
for home-educated children with SEN on grounds of non-registration
54. In view of this clear guidance, we were concerned
to hear some of the examples of poor practice around SEN and health
provision recounted by home educators. One parent of a boy with
High Functioning Autism and with a Statement, for example, wrote
that, following their decision to home educate, "the LA robustly
refused" to contribute anything towards special teaching,
suggested that the Statement might be withdrawn to avoid home
visits, and has provided "no other support" at all.
Other witnesses recounted similar concerns: Zena Hodgson
explained that for pupils who were on School Action or School
Action Plus, and then become home-educated, "a lot of the
links to occupational therapists, speech and language therapists
and those kinds of services are cut straight away".
We also heard evidence of poor join-up between education and
health teams, and of unacceptable waiting times: one parent of
a child with mobility problems spoke to officers in a number of
teams but, eight months on, had "heard nothing" concerning
the provision of the powered wheelchair recommended by his occupational
55. The responsible Minister, Elizabeth Truss, confirmed
that "this is wrong", and re-emphasised that local authorities
are required "to make sure that child is provided for and
that they have an education that meets the need". 
She stated that if local authorities are not providing adequate
resources "that is a problem". 
The Minister further agreed that provision for young people without
a Statement "should be looked at".
56. Furthermore, our evidence suggested that the
Pathfinder projects established to trial the Government's proposed
reforms around SEN and disabilities have not engaged with home
educators; one witness
I wrote to all of them and said, 'What is your policy
with home-educated children?' and two-thirds of them are saying,
'You do not fit the criteria.' Another said, 'That is a good point.
I do not know.'
That witness described the pathfinders as "hopeless",
whilst another argued that they were getting "terribly bogged
down in procedure".
are pleased that the Minister confirmed, in her evidence to us,
that local authorities remain responsible for ensuring that provisions
in Statements are met, and were equally pleased that she agreed
the issues relating to home-educated young people with SEN or
complex health needs, but without Statements, should be investigated.
We look forward to the outcomes of the Department for Education's
investigations in this area. In the meantime we urge local authorities
to comply with statutory guidance and ensure that home-educated
young people with SEN or medical conditions are not being discriminated
57 See DCSF Guidelines 2007, p. 4 Back
CSF Report 2009 Back
Ev w7 Back
Q 60 (and see qq. 61- 62) Back
See Ev 70 Back
Ev 73 Back
Q 59. The use of PRUs has caused some concern: one home educator
wrote to us that, as the venue's name "is displayed prominently
on examination certificates", using a PRU "may be prejudicial
when the certificate is shown to a prospective employer of college"
(Ev w43). Back
Ev 54 Back
Ev w29 Back
See Q 59 Back
Q 93 (Zena Hodgson) Back
Q 92 (Jayne Richardson) Back
Q 211 (Melissa Young) Back
See qq. 207-211 (Elaine Grant, Helen Sadler and Melissa Young) Back
See Q 59 Back
Ev w7 Back
See for example Ev w19; Ev w29; and Ev w51 Back
Q 245 (Elizabeth Truss MP) Back
Ev 38 Back
Ev 40 Back
Q 230 Back
Ev 49 Back
Ev 51, Ev 64 Back
Q 51 Back
See qq. 78 and 110 (Julie Barker) Back
Q 51 (Fiona Nicholson) Back
Ev w81 Back
Ev w17 Back
Q 249 (Elizabeth Truss MP) Back
Qq. 254- 255 Back
See uncorrected transcript of oral evidence before the Education
Committee, 6 November 2012, Q 251. The Committee conducted
pre-legislative scrutiny of the Government's draft clauses pertaining
to the reform of provision for young people with SEN, published
in a Command Paper (Cm 8438) on 3 September 2012. Back
HC Deb 26 November 2012, col. 7W Back
Ev w94 Back
Q 108 Back
Ev w99 Back
Q 236 (Elizabeth Truss MP) Back
Q 237 (Elizabeth Truss MP) Back
The Committee has taken wider evidence concerning the new Pathfinders,
during a one-off oral evidence session on SEN in June 2012, and
as part of its pre-legislative scrutiny as noted above. Back
Q 57 (Fiona Nicholson) Back
Q 56 (Fiona Nicholson) Back
Ibid. (Jane Lowe) Back