Dear Sir Michael Wilshaw,
I am very sorry to hear that you have found evidence to suggest that hundreds of children in England are being taught in illegal schools. However, I am extremely concerned that you wish that “… the rules around home education need to be heightened because it’s quite clear to me that there’s a correlation between the growth of home education and the number of illegal schools that are now operating” (BBC Radio 4’s Eddie Mair show, 17.05.16).
You see, home education is legal, the schools that you are concerned about are illegal. Can you see my point? No? OK, there are an estimated 30-50,000 home educated children in England. These children are being educated by their parents in a completely legal way, because as you know, a state school education is NOT compulsory. There are many parents who choose instead to pay other people to educate their children in the private sector. The majority of parents who pay for their child’s education do so at Ofsted (but not Local Authority) regulated private schools. In fact most of our current Government seem to have been educated in this way! Parents do this because they do not believe that the local authority schools provide the best education for their child. Unfortunately it is true that there are some parents who, often for religious reasons, choose unregulated private education. These schools are already deemed to be illegal. That they exist is purely due to the fact that the local authorities have not found them and shut them down, not that they do not have the powers to do so. Indeed you said yourself that you “… have the powers to investigate and if necessary prosecute.” Surely then the problem is simply that local authorities need to spend more money and manpower identifying institutions that break the existing law around unregulated schools. How exactly would “… encouraging the government to look at the laws around home education and tighten them up” achieve this end? Surely heightened regulation and monitoring of legal home education will do nothing more that divert already depleted funds away from investigating illegal, and possibly incredibly damaging, schools.
I’m hoping, Sir Michael, that you can see that muddling up ‘Home Education’ with ‘Illegal Schooling’ is rather unhelpful with regards to safeguarding our children. So let’s move on to something which, I have to admit, I find even more concerning. I should imagine that the Chief Inspector of schools has a rather sound knowledge and understanding of education law, is that correct? Well it appears that in your case it is not. During the Eddie Mair show interview you stated that:
“There’s nothing wrong with a parent wanting their child to be home educated, that is something that has been enshrined in statute for a very long time, and if parents want to do that then they’ve got to inform the local authority that they are doing it, and the local authority visits to check that a reasonable education is being offered, and that’s fine”
“… it is a requirement on parents if they are going to home educate their children to inform someone that that is happening.”
This, Sir Michael, is simply not true. It is very upsetting for me, as a home educating parent, to hear someone in your position spouting such untruths. You see, the law relating to Elective Home Education states that:
“… parents are not required to register or seek approval from the local authority to educate their children at home.”
“… Local authorities have no statutory duties in relation to monitoring the quality of home education on a routine basis…”
” Some parents may welcome the opportunity to discuss the provision during a home visit but parents are not legally required to give the local authority access to their home…”
(Sections 2.4, 2.7 and 3.6 of the Elective Home Education Guidelines for Local authorities and informed by Section 175 (1) of the Education Act 2002)
I would therefore suggest that you stick with your area of expertise, finding and shutting down schools which are acting outside of the law, and leave the job of home education to those that actually know what they are doing. Oh, and if you are interested in finding out where I stand with regards to mandatory monitoring and regulation of home education, which let’s face it is what you are gunning for, you can read about it here.
Yours angrily, A Home Educator