Tag Archives: Select Committee

Support for Home Education

At the beginning of September I was interviewed as a witness by the Select committee on Support for Home Education.  I wrote briefly about the day in this post, but intended to follow up with a more detailed summary of the session.  I thought I would be able to come back and write more about it after taking the time to process it, but what has happened really is that I have forgotten a lot of the detail.  I could watch it but I have no desire to see myself “on TV” so that’s out.  I could read the transcript – I have skimmed through it once, and really meant to come back to it, but it never rises to the top of my to-do list.  But I know that some people have expressed an interest in hearing more about it, and I really appreciate that, so I shall do my best.

In July I wrote a written submission in response to the Select committee’s call for evidence, after discussing the issues with other local home educators.  I went into a lot of detail on the first point, “the duties of local authorities with regard to home education”, because I believe that many LAs, mine included, don’t have a clear idea of what their duties are and tend to make it up as they go along.  I spent several enjoyable hours picking apart our LA’s website, highlighting areas where it misrepresents the law on home education, and fails to follow the Elective Home Education Guidelines for Local Authorities (2007.)  I then rather hastily put together the rest of the submission at the eleventh hour, but there must have been enough in it that was useful for them to consult me further.  Let’s just say that in exam terms I did enough revision the night before to scrape through.

The legal basis for home education in the UK is found in Section 7 of the Education Act (1996) which states that

“The parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him to receive efficient full-time education suitable ;

a) to his age, ability, and aptitude, and

b) to any special educational needs he may have,

either by regular attendance at school or otherwise.”

It is quite clear that the legal responsibility for the education of children rests with their parents.  They may or may not choose to use schools to deliver that education, but there is no legal requirement for them to do so.  The 2007 guidelines make it clear that “Parents are not required to register or seek approval from the local authority to educate their children at home.”  Many local authority websites directly contradict the law and mislead parents to such an extent that the widespread ignorance about the legality of home education is somewhat understandable.

I think most home educators would agree that innaccurate legal information on Local Authority websites is unacceptable.  The issues get more complex, though, when you look at the question of what, if any, support should be offered for home education.  There are many in the home ed community who are completely opposed to any form of registration, even if it is voluntary, and therefore do not want any support at all.  There are others who feel equally strongly that there should be financial and other support available to all families who wish to home educate.  I found it difficult to do anything other than sit on the fence on this issue, especially as I was trying to represent the views of our very diverse local home ed community, but I did find that being involved in the discussion helped to clarify my views a little.  While I believe that mandatory registration would be unacceptable, I think that there may be a case for voluntary registration to access support.  I know that some home educators believe it would ultimately lead to enforced registration, which is a serious concern.  However, I feel very strongly that the right to home educate should be available to all families.  I believe that single parents and families on low incomes should be able to make this choice freely, and it should not just be another form of private education for the privileged few.

One thing that came across clearly from the discussion was that there is a postcode lottery, with some LAs adhering to the law and providing useful support and others offering nothing but misleading information.  Although there are some examples of good practice, there is such a long history of negative attitudes from many LAs that it is doubtful that support could come from them and be welcomed by the wider home ed community.  One of the witnesses suggested that a neutral service provider such as the library service would be a better way of delivering support, and I really hope that this idea will be followed up.

The next session of the committee will take place this Wednesday morning, when some of the LAs will be giving oral evidence.  It should be interesting to watch, but if you are a home educator you may find this helpful to get you through the morning.  Enjoy!

Paralympics, Select Committee and other stuff

It’s been a busy week.  We had a fairly quiet day on Sunday, with church in the morning and another peaceful afternoon at home.  Granny came here for supper and stayed to read lots of stories to the children at bedtime which was lovely.

Then, on Monday, we went to the Paralympics.  I was feeling a little daunted by the prospect of travelling on busy trains and standing in queues for ages, but it was much better than I thought it would be.  We managed to get an early train and so it wasn’t too crowded, and we had time for breakfast before going into the Olympic Park.  We didn’t have to queue for too long, everything was quite efficient and all the volunteers were really friendly.  The children enjoyed the experience, though the three hour session was too long for the little three, and it was quite hard work occupying them.  We just about survived with the aid of chocolate buttons, crisps, apples and ice creams!  Owl was especially interested, and for him it felt like not quite enough.  We were watching Athletics, and saw a variety of track and field events (we had a brilliant view of the long jump) and several medal ceremonies, culminating in local boy David Weir receiving a gold medal which was brilliant.

Afterwards we escaped the heat and went to John Lewis for lunch.  It was rather busy but not as crowded as the Olympic Park.  We spend a long time there, without accomplishing a great deal, apart from a new pair of shoes for Tiddler, and some Olympic merchandise, but it filled the afternoon up easily and we got the train home in time for supper.

On Tuesday, we had a quiet day at home with a lot of Lego, playing in the garden and other things I have now forgotten.  I did some knitting with Rabbit and she also did some of her new Maths and English sticker books.  In the afternoon, Owl and Monkey had swimming lessons which they enjoyed, and we stayed for supper at the Leisure Centre cafe (which is cash only and I hadn’t planned ahead – they weren’t that impressed with macaroni cheese, tap water and nothing else!)

Wednesday was another big day.  I was asked to give oral evidence at the Select Committee on Support for Home Education after writing a submission for their consultation recently.  We all went up to London by train, and then took a taxi to Portcullis House.  The children wanted to come in with me, so we all went through security and were then directed upstairs.  I met the other witnesses and chatted while we waited.  The children went off with daddy, and after some delay the proceedings started.  I was an observer for the first half and then on the panel for the second half.  As I watched and listened, I found it very interesting, though I couldn’t help thinking I would have enjoyed it more if that was all I had to do.  When it was my turn, I found it pretty stressful to find the right words to say at the right time, particularly as the other witnesses had plenty to say for themselves (well, that’s home educators for you!)  However it was quite an experience and I’m glad to have had the opportunity to put some points across (though there was so much more I could have said.)  I should probably write something about what was discussed, but I haven’t really processed it all yet.  I need to come back to it, I think.

After the session finished, the children and daddy came back.  In fact, as it overran, they were back a little before the end.  I know because I could hear them, and I saw someone go out to tell them to be quiet!  Owl was very excited to come in at the end, and to meet one of the MPs.  When asked if he had any questions, he said “I want to know the meaning of the law”, by which I think he meant all of it.  We agreed he would think of some more specific questions to ask by email, though I think he would do just as well asking Grandpa.  We then left and went to buy sandwiches and fruit to eat by the river with some of the other witnesses.  The children had been to the National Gallery in the morning, which I think they enjoyed, but there was something else that had made more of an impression on all of them.  Owl said “We’ve made a new friend”, and they described a young man who had one short arm and “his wrist was very close to his elbow” (Monkey’s words.)  Owl had asked him if he was in the Paralympics, and the man said no but he was going to be running in a marathon soon.

After lunch, we walked around a bit, looked at Westminster Abbey, decided it wasn’t worth paying to get in at that time of the day when the children were tired, and repaired instead to the Methodist Central Hall.  Suburban dad found it by searching on his phone for free toilets near Westminster Abbey!  As well as the toilets, it had a nice cafe, and we all felt revived by tea/ juice and biscuits and a comfortable place to sit.  Next we decided to head back to the Parliament shop, but on the way we walked past the Supreme Court and noticed they had an exhibition on Sport and the Law so we popped in.  Owl and Rabbit drew some posters on the theme of “fair play in sport” and were presented with certificates, and we looked round the exhibition and watched a little bit of the Paralympics which was being shown in the same room.  We then headed back to the station via the Parliament shop, and caught the train home.


On Thursday, Tiddler had his swimming lesson first thing and, as I have to go in the pool with him, the others went to Granny’s house.  I collected them mid-morning and had just enough time for a quick cup of tea before heading back to the same pool for Rabbit’s lesson (after lunch in the cafe, again with not enough food because I didn’t have much money!)  After the lesson, we went to a Home Education group meeting and the children played very happily while I enjoyed time to catch up with the adults.

On Friday, Owl and Monkey had violin lessons early in the morning.  Owl has been learning for two and a half years, but it was Monkey’s first lesson.  After that, we had a free day at home and the children spent most of it playing.  I did some more knitting with Rabbit, and she and Tiddler did some painting.



Monkey made a crown for his baby doll, and Rabbit decided to make one for hers as well.  Tiddler wanted one for his baby, so Monkey helped him to make one.  It was lovely to watch them, and they hardly needed my help at all (apart from finding the end of the sellotape!)  They played in the garden a lot, made dens in the playroom and played with Lego.

This morning we started our latest version of Saturday madness, with a slightly different and yet more hectic set of activities.  I took Tiddler to Dramabuds and Rabbit went to ballet, while Owl and Monkey played tennis with daddy.  Then it was Owl and Monkey’s turn for ballet and tap, while Rabbit went to her Dramabuds session.  I hope this term will be a better chance for Monkey to try out the dance lessons, in an older age group, with Owl, and with a male teacher.  I don’t mind whether they continue next term, or go back to football (unfortunately they clash), but I’m glad for them both to have the opportunity to try.  I wish there were some other boys doing it though, but sadly that is not the case.

We had a very nice lunch at our local deli, before going home to face up to the housework while the children spent most of the afternoon playing in the paddling pool.  We enjoyed our last barbecue of the season in the evening – it will have to be the last because the gas bottle has run out!

I haven’t asked them to do any particular work this week, as it has been so busy with outings and first lessons of the term, but as usual I have been impressed with their creative learning and play which is, of course, at its best when I leave them to it.  I can’t remember it all, but in addition to the things I have already mentioned, one little scene stands out in my memory.  One evening, I’m not sure which, after supper, Owl came to me and said “I think I need to practise adding up numbers so I will be able to work out how many Lego bricks I need for my building plans.”  I offered him a worksheet (adding two-digit numbers) and he did all twenty questions very quickly, with a just a little help and encouragement.  At the same time, Monkey sat down at the table with us and read a story to Rabbit.  I think that shows we don’t need to worry that Owl isn’t always enthusiastic about Maths, and Monkey doesn’t want to read aloud very often.  When they see a purpose for doing it, they have no problems at all.

Another lovely moment (on Friday evening, I think) was when Monkey was practising the long jump in the garden.  The group we watched doing the long jump at the Paralympics on Monday was the athletes who had an arm, or part of an arm, missing.  Inspired by this, Monkey had one arm inside his T-shirt and at one point he turned to us and encouraged us to clap by clapping his “good arm” onto the opposite shoulder, as he had seen one of the athletes do on Monday.  During the Olympics, I was glad that the boys were interested and inspired, and I think it has renewed their enthusiasm for sport.  If anything, the Paralympics have been more inspiring, and I love the fact that they now have people with disabilities among their heroes.