A response to the Commons Education Committee’s ‘Strengthening Home Education’ report.

“These are narrow-minded policies that do not consider the collateral damage they will cause to children.”

From Dr Harriet Pattison, Senior Lecturer in Early Childhood at Liverpool Hope University (@LiverpoolHopeUK) and a Home Education specialist.

Dr Pattison says:

“I am incredibly disappointed but not surprised by the Select Committee's recommendations. These are the same tired old ideas which were suggested and then dismissed over a decade ago as unworkable and inappropriate. It is incredibly disappointing that the Select Committee has failed to engage with stake holders, with research and with the opportunities that there are to build innovative partnerships and co-operation between children, families, schools and Local Authorities. 

“They have not taken the views of home educators into account. They have not listened to a single home educated child or young person. We could be building education that is personalised, flexible and meaningful for all children - harnessing the best of school opportunities and the freedoms of home education. Instead, these are narrow-minded policies that lack forward-thinking and which apparently do not consider the collateral damage they will cause to children.

“A register for children 'out of school' implies that all children out of school are being put into the same category. The Select Committee has clearly not listened to home educators who have tried to explain to them the difference between home education and children missing education.  It should be inconceivable that a compulsory register of a law abiding minority group be implemented without a careful consideration of the implications for civil liberties. No such consideration has been made.  This register would be the second compulsory register in the country; the first being for convicted sex offenders.

“Most home educated children have been withdrawn from school because school has failed to provide for their needs. This includes large numbers of SEND children.  Schools have had the chance to advocate on behalf of and provide for these children and have failed to do so. Many of them are traumatised by their experiences in school and now Local Authorities are being given a green light to pursue them into their own homes.

“Local Authorities receive no statutory training on home education. It is completely unclear how they would or could competently assess progress in educational programmes other than the National Curriculum.  Asking for samples of work immediately shows a gross misunderstanding of how much education outside school operates. It makes no sense to use standards from the National Curriculum for children who are not following that curriculum because, instead, their education has been tailored to their interests, aptitudes and abilities in ways that mass provision cannot provide. I offered to speak to the Select Committee about my work on literacy among home educated children; that offer was not taken up. In other words, the research that exists was not considered and has not informed these suggestions.

“Better data on outcomes would be welcome however, the research which does exist has not been used to inform these recommendations. The Select Committee needs to make clear how this data would play into future policy. Indeed, should this go ahead, it needs to be made clear how these recommendations in their entirety would be embedded into the policy cycle.

“Finally, the recommendation on exams is welcomed and indeed answers, at least in part, the need for data on outcomes."

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