home educating and home educated members of the Labour Party, we
welcome the suggested National Education Service, and especially the
emphasis on making it democratic and democratically accountable. We
assert that true democratic education is diverse, empowering,
flexible, and is first and foremost guided by the voices of learners
and accountable to them. It is lifelong, with special protections and
thought given to children, but with no room for coercion or
humiliation of learners, regardless of their age. It is respectful of
learners’ diverse values, goals, and inclinations, and its main aim
is providing them with tools in pursuing those goals – not achieving
some arbitrary uniform standard. It allows a rich diversity of
methods and approaches, and keeps accountability mechanisms simple,
direct and unobtrusive, not permitting them to take over the learning
educators in the UK have been implementing this approach for decades,
and can become a valuable example and a source of learning for the
NES. Despite continued fear-mongering in the media and hand-wringing
in national and local government, in reality home education has
created a range of tolerant and diverse communities of learning that
provide a haven for children who are vulnerable in schools, whether
because of their neurodivergence, disabilities, health needs, gender
identity, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or religion. Thanks to the
freedom currently afforded to them by law, British home educators
take their cues first and foremost from their children’s needs, and
tend to become more learner-led with time (1). They are highly
flexible in their educational provision, and their accountability
process is exceedingly simple and effective: it is always directly
accountable to the learner. Home education in the UK (contrary to
popular ideas imported from abroad, or borne by ignorance and fear)
is community-focused; highly diverse and tolerant; based on an
understanding of children’s development and differing needs and
abilities; and has a deep respect for learners’ voices.
from around the world shows that home educated people achieve results
that are at least as good as those educated in school – and often
better than them. Contrary to common assumptions, some studies
suggest that it might be especially beneficial for learners from
groups traditionally considered disadvantaged (2-5). Learner-led,
autonomous education is not restricted to families, although it is
especially suited to them; it has been successfully implemented by
democratic schools worldwide for nearly a century, led by the
examples of Summerhill and Sudbury. Research carried out on students
of those schools and other self-led contexts upholds the results from
research on home education (6-8). In fact, there is increasing
evidence that any partial increase in autonomy and respect for
children in schools not only benefits their wellbeing, but also
raises traditional educational measures (9, 10).
the effectiveness of learner-led education both in family and in
appropriate institutional contexts, we hold that the routine
coercion, disrespect, and humiliation techniques employed by
mainstream schools to achieve their results are morally indefensible.
Those range from small everyday humiliations such as not allowing
children to pursue genuine interests during class or use the toilet
when they need to, to extreme punitive practices such as putting
children in isolation booths. Those techniques are not only immoral,
they also undermine education and are counter-democratic: they create
a culture in which learning is a dreaded chore, and diversity in
learning styles and interests is a nuisance instead of an asset; they
disempower students by training them from a young age that an
arbitrary curriculum is more important than their own goals and
values; and they instill the idea that collaboration and effective
use of modern tools are cheating. By its very structure, standard
school education teaches students that they have no power in the
system they inhabit apart from the choice to conform or rebel – a
very damaging dichotomy for many pupils, and certainly
counter-productive for citizens of a democratic society. None of this
is the fault of teachers, who are failed by the authoritarian and
rigid structure of the system nearly as badly as the pupils.
believe that the NES, like the NHS at its best, should offer a wide
range of flexible services that are embedded in the community and are
always optional. Education and childcare should be viewed as separate
services, and while many providers will undoubtedly continue to offer
both, their regulation and funding should be totally divorced so that
education can be efficient and not a time-filling exercise, and the
actual childcare needs of British society in the 21st century can be
understood and fulfilled, instead of following an outdated 19th
century factory model. Families should be able to make as much or as
little use of the offered services as suits them, allowing for a
diversity of children’s needs and abilities, as well as for a
variety of families’ work demands, cultural practices, and
lifestyle choices. A culture that values and supports education
should be fostered by drastically increased funding for a range of
flexible and inviting educational services for all ages – from
libraries, museums, playgrounds and community learning centres to
learning apps, websites and television programmes. Schools should
become centres for community learning and involvement, offering their
facilities for continued education when they are not otherwise in
use. Programmes to bring in the community during school hours should
be encouraged, such as offering work space in return for teaching
skills on- or off-premises.
reject both the notion that home educators should be regulated like
schools, and the notion that home education should be considered in
total isolation from other types of education. We also reject the
idea that home educators should be regulated like external
educational providers – like any other aspect of parenting, childhood
education does not need to be regulated within families, and the fact
that this specific task is usually outsourced shouldn’t change the
basic trust we have in families to care for their members. Within the
current system, families choose home education for a large variety of
reasons, but increasingly more do so for failures of the school
system to meet their children’s needs. Attempts to regulate home
education as a way to combat this phenomenon penalise the victims of
a broken system, disempowering them when they seek to create
constructive solutions to the difficulties they face. Instead, those
families should be viewed as a valuable source of information for
understanding and rectifying the underlying issues in schools, and
their decisions should be awarded the same respect given to families
who home educate as a first choice. Policy makers need to keep in
mind that however parents arrive at home education, they do so out of
a deep investment in their children’s education and future, and
there is no evidence to support the common assumption that a negative
past experience in school has any impact at all on the quality of
home education. In a future flexible access NES, full home education
could become just one point on a continuous spectrum of different
modes and measures of access to publicly funded education, providing
learners, their families, their communities, and NES staff with the
ability to tailor education to learners’ specific needs, goals, and
those unfamiliar with the home education community in the UK, it may
seem surprising or strange that we have so much to say about the
educational institutions which we avoid. The current reality,
however, is that home educating communities across the UK have seen
over the past few years an enormous influx of the children most
appallingly let down by the current system. Many of us have gone
through this process with our own children, removing them from
schools which have badly failed them; a sizable minority of us have
even left our jobs in education to home educate our children, not
being able to continue to operate in such an oppressive system. Even
those of us for whom home education has been an ideological choice
from the very start cannot ignore the issues that have harmed so many
children in our communities so badly. We are proud to be a safe haven
for those children, and we are honoured to witness their journeys
toward healing and learning, but we would much rather that home
education’s very necessary function as a haven for vulnerable
children would become a minor one, alongside its other roles as a
place for community learning, educational experimentation, tolerance
Labour could support parents and children who choose to Home Educate
current home education culture in the UK, we strongly oppose
regular monitoring of
home educators. Monitoring shifts the focus away from learners’
goals and needs to arbitrary, external measurements, and creates a
particular source of stress for families already marginalised
because of their ethnicity, religion, class, disability, or
educational approach. It should only be used in a limited way in
situations where there is serious cause for concern.
would support a voluntary registration scheme using non-essential
incentives such as funding for extra educational resources. Home
educated children should not be treated like violent offenders.
support the inclusion of relevant education questions in the
census, as a
minimally-invasive technique to determine the number and perhaps
some other basic demographic information of home educators in the
of any kind should only be carried out by comprehensively
This includes following up concerns of children not receiving a
for home education officers –
and indeed,foranyone involved in
legislating, policy making, or implementing rules around home
education – must at the very least cover the law regarding home
education, existing research into home education practice in the UK
and worldwide, reasons different families chose this path, styles of
home education – including autonomous education – and what to expect
that they might look like in practice, available resources for
families in the region, and awareness of mental health and SEN in
children. This is essential, and attempts to begin legislation
without this requirement will result in real and lasting harm to the
most vulnerable among us.
NES should institute a clear
and affordable complaint procedure and real consequences
for officials who abuse their power to harass home educating
families, an unfortunate reality today around the UK for which home
educators have little recourse.
much as possible, national and local governments should aim to
employ home educators
and formerly home educated people
for all levels of policy making and implementation concerning home
relationships with local home education communities should
be mandatory for local authorities, and funding should be allocated
for this purpose.
service providers coming into regular contact with families, such as
social workers and health visitors, should also receive proper
training about home education.
At the moment home educators are referred to social services at
about double the rate of the general population, while those
referrals are 3.5 – 5 times less likely to lead to a Child
Protection Plan (11), reflecting societal bias against home
education. Home educators report significant harassment by
uninformed social workers, and even when investigation shows that
there is no cause for concern, this can later carry over to further
harassment by authorities because the family is “known to social
home education entity
within the DfE should
be set up to deal with research, policy, and complaints. It should
be staffed by people with significant experience of home education,
either as home educators, as formerly home educated students, or as
researchers (provided that a majority of people with diverse lived
experience is maintained).
the 1960s, Labour invented the Open University, giving adults the
chance to “home educate” themselves rather than go to a
university. Today, we have the opportunity to set up an Open
School service where
home educated children could access modular online courses and take
part in collective discussion groups / learning with children with
the same interests and abilities across the country. This service
should not be limited to home educated children, but we suggest that
the home education community would be an enthusiastic and valuable
development partner for a resource that could positively impact the
education of all children in the UK.
children in the UK should have the opportunity to pursue their
chosen qualifications. Home educated children (and indeed, all UK
residents of any age) should have reasonable
access to exams, apprenticeships, and work experience programs.
authorities and the NES should work with home education communities
to enable them to access community
spaces and resources
for free or affordable prices.
education is the most appropriate setting for some children
should recognise that for some children, home
education is the most appropriate setting
for a suitable education.
should make sure to provide
for those families who may not have chosen home education as a first
choice, but do so to provide their children with the best education
for their specific needs.
support services for
children with SEN should be available
regardless of educational setting.
education is particularly well suited to children who are
overwhelmed by the noise and activity in school, whether as a result
or as a reaction to trauma.
education is a good solution for children who find the demands of
school difficult because they struggle with anxiety
autonomous education approach in any context means that education
is tailored by default,
and is thus easily adaptable to different learning styles and needs,
turning differences from a liability to an unremarkable fact.
for social workers and SEN providers is essential.
If officials are ignorant of what home education is and how it
works, they will deprive some children of what could be the best
educational strategy for them.
can the schools and the NES learn from home education
strongly encourage funding large-scale research
into home education,
both in order to understand home education better, and to inform
policy making for the whole of the NES. Because of its flexibility
and adaptability, home
education allows for a diverse space for exploration of educational
alternatives that can be used to provide fresh ideas for
slower-moving institutions. Research specifically into children who
have left schools because of failures of the system can shine a
light onto those problems, and illuminate which helpful strategies
employed in home educating these children can be adopted into
and childcare should be decoupled
in funding, regulation, and policy making, and families and learners
should be able to access both flexibly.
NES should offer modular,
education that anyone of any age can access according to their
needs, abilities, and goals.
NES should be built
around learners’ needs,
instead of trying to contort learners to comply with the system’s
needs. This means educational and behavioral expectations should be
based on current knowledge of child development; children should
have ample opportunities for free, unstructured play and
exploration; school timetables should facilitate healthy sleeping
and eating schedules; and toilet access should never be restricted.
NES should foster
and a nurturing environment. Students of all ages, and especially
children, learn best when they are in a safe environment and have
trusting relationships with the people they are learning from and
with. This means small classrooms and good working conditions for
staff; a less authoritarian ethos within schools; non-punitive
behaviour correction methods; and awareness of mental health issues,
early trauma, and attachment problems.
should be community-focused
This means drastically increasing funding for resources such as
museums, libraries, adventure playgrounds and nature reserves; using
schools as centres for community learning and involvement when not
otherwise in use, as well as inviting the community in during school
hours; significantly increasing opportunities for volunteering, work
experience, apprenticeships and mentoring programs in the community,
and offering those at earlier ages; plus offering a range of
lifelong training opportunities for the whole community.
NES should provide quality
education fit for the 21st century.
This means that students should practice setting and pursuing their
own goals at all stages of their education, and schools should
primarily help pupils identify and pursue their goals and the skills
and knowledge they need to achieve them; group work and cooperation
should be heavily encouraged and rewarded; education should be
lifelong, self-led, and modular; Neurodiversity should be
celebrated, not just grudgingly accommodated; and all NES
establishments should be built, stocked, and maintained with
educational establishments should be democratically
accountable to their
community, and first and foremost to their learners – of all ages.
Participation in active democracy from an early age will create
active and involved citizens. Curriculums should not be dictated
from above, testing should be functional and limited to later years,
and results should never be used as a way to measure the performance
of institutions or staff. Accountability should be kept as direct
and as simple as possible. The essential measures of success should
be a safe environment, free access to a wide range of resources, and
fostering a culture that values learning.
ideal goal of all educational endeavours should be 100%
success rate. Current
testing and accountability structures often necessitate a certain
rate of “losers” so that there can be “winners”. In a system
that aims to help learners make and achieve their own, different
goals instead of some arbitrary set of benchmarks, no one needs to
lose for others to succeed.
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