It is the legal right of all parents to choose not to send their children to school and to home educate instead.
But how this is interpreted sometimes affects the relationships between home schooling families and their Local Authority.
The law states that a child should receive an efficient full-time education suitable to age, ability, aptitude and special needs. (For more information on the law see here)
This leaves opportunity for an open interpretation of what is a suitable education and parents, educators and the LA can have very divided views.
Since each individual family – and child – is so very different it would be impossible to stick to hard and fast rules on suitability and effectiveness, if we were going to cater for all the varied learning needs. It also means that home education is quite difficult to monitor and asses.
It falls to the Local Authorities to do that and officers monitor both schools and home education. But as there is an enormous difference in the approach and philosophies of the two, some LA officers have failed to recognise or understand these differences and how home education still succeeds.
Consequently many home educators have experienced disrespect from visiting officers for their rights and their approaches. The attitudes LA officers adopt are equated with school approaches and are completely irrelevant to most home educators’ practices, which has caused, in some instances, much distress and concern within home educating communities.
However, recently, the MP Graham Stuart, chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on home education, acknowledged this unhappy situation in an article in the Local Government Chronicle the content of which has been shared among our community.
He publicly recognises that some LAs have shown a confrontational attitude to home schoolers and agrees this contravenes government guidelines and is counter-productive to a child’s education. Their attitude also misrepresents the legal rights of parents and requirements of councils. He calls for this to end and gives Cambridgeshire Council as an example of having changed its approach to home educators from one of suspicion to one of support.
This is extremely encouraging and will be welcomed among the home education community. There has been much work by them to try and change LA’s approach and attitudes in accordance with the rights of home educators and to promote understanding. Through continued dialogue with LAs home educators are making a positive difference.
So parents can look forward to more support and understanding from the LA officers in place of judgement and ignorance.
There are several social media networks for home educating parents especially for dealing with LA contact and parents can connect with their local home education groups and wider forums online to seek support if they are in any doubt.
But it is good to know that there are those among the powers that be who understand and are supportive of parents’ right to this choice.