Home education on the rise – a cause for concern?

Only if you’re a Labour politician.

To: Department for Education
Home Education 210289
Barry Sheerman
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, if she will make it her policy to collect information on the (a) number, (b) religion and (c) ethnicity of children being homeschooled in England.
Answered by: Mr Nick Gibb on: 20 October 2014
There are no current plans to collect personal information on children receiving elective home education. The Department for Education is aware, however, of some concerns amongst local authorities about the information they have on such children in their areas. We have recently begun discussions with a range of representative bodies about these concerns and other home education issues, especially in relation to safeguarding


Oh, really. Some concerns in local authorities exist regarding home education, especially in relation to safeguarding. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, home education is NOT, in and of itself, a safeguarding issue. Conflating the two is ignorant and offensive. School is NOT a child welfare solution.

Are we clear now?

And Sheerman again:

I will finish on something that still bugs me from my days as Chair of the Children, Schools and Families Committee—something on which the present Chair of the Education Committee and I disagreed in those days. I am very worried that we do not know where a number of children in our country are or what stimulation and schooling they are getting. I am really worried about home schooling. In my constituency and others, I find a lax attitude to home schooling, and the ease with which people can say a child is being home schooled is dangerous territory. When it was confined to a small number of middle-class families who thought their child might be bullied at school and needed that home support, it was perhaps something we could tolerate, but I always thought that we ought to know where every child is in this country



I always thought that we ought to know where every child is in this country, how it is being supported, how it is being stimulated and how it is being treated. I am increasingly concerned about the large number of children now being home schooled. Their number is growing rapidly.

I am also worried that people from a strong faith background are choosing to use home schooling. I see it going on in my own community and know it is going on in other communities. I have a lot of evidence that the home school is not genuinely in the home, and the children are ending up in scruffy little back rooms being taught in a way that I do not approve of. I believe that we should know what children are being taught and how they are being taught.

Graham Stuart (Beverley and Holderness, Conservative)
I think the hon. Gentleman will get an extra minute if he is lucky. May I say to him that I do not believe he does have an evidence base of any sort for these slurs against home-educating families up and down the country? Why do we not seek a point of agreement that what we should do is try to establish a better evidence base about what is happening in home schooling? If we did that, we could talk on the basis of evidence, rather than slur and anecdote.

Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield, Labour)
When the hon. Gentleman and I were on the Select Committee looking at this subject we disagreed, and we will continue to do so. The increasing evidence of the larger number of home schooled children is a worry in any society. This week, we had a statement on what was happening to children in one town. I believe we have a duty as parliamentarians to know where every child is, what the curriculum is and what the qualifications are of the people looking after them.

I apologise for the lengthy quotes above. But I wanted to give you the full background.

I want to show you what this particular elected representative thinks of us, parents. If you’re in a minority of slightly awkward middle class families, determined to be different, your home education can perhaps be excused. But if the numbers increase. If non middle class families start doing it. If “people from a strong faith background” (I’m not quite sure what this phrase is alluding to, but I can’t see he means it as anything good) get involved, then he wants to know where every child is, what the curriculum is and what the qualifications are of the carer.

(I’ve half a mind to suggest that every home educator send him a diary for a week. I’m sure that would hugely improve the safety of home educated children everywhere. Would that build the evidence base they are looking for?)

Newsflash Mr Sheerman.

Children don’t grow to a curriculum. One of the many reasons that parents choose to home educate is to be able to offer education suitable to the individual child, because a one size fits all system of education doesn’t work.

And parents don’t have to be qualified to parent. (Pauses for a moment to imagine precisely how that could be achieved. Mandatory contraception until you passed a parenting class??) And *we* are in charge of our children’s care, and our children’s education. We may choose to delegate to schools, and schools require inspection so that the left hand knows what the right is doing. Parents don’t require inspection, the family unit is the family unit, and there is still a right to privacy within it (I despair when people point to the family right to a private life as if it is a bad thing. Do you *want* to live in a house with glass walls where everyone knows what you are doing at all times? Privacy is not about hiding, it’s about being private. Think about it.)

The state is the parent of last resort, to step in when a family fails. And it’s not very good at it. Before you come gunning for families, Mr Sheerman, how about you sort out the child protection scandals within the organisations that are *supposed* to be there to protect children?

When we defeated Badman during the last Labour government, we knew it was but a battle in a war. If Labour get in again at the next general election they will again attempt to override family rights and privacies for the common good. This is laying the groundwork for that attack.

Just a thought.

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  1. As well as his obvious snobbery against working class parents, who made him King of education? All those children being “educated in ways I don’t approve of.” I don’t want his approval actually. I don’t want my children growing up to be narrow-minded snobs like him. Thanks very much.
    Thanks for posting about this. Forewarned and all that

  2. Thanks for this Jax – I agree! The thing that worries me most; is there actually a politician who doesn’t have ignorant, bigoted and middle class views on education and the control of children and parents?!

  3. If it’s any consolation, I think Barry Sheerman is retiring next year. So hopefully we can be relieved of having to win his approval…

    • I think he’s lining up Ed Balls’ ducks for him as a last finger up at us for showing him up. Still a dangerous man even if he is retiring.

  4. Sarah Ballard says:

    Oh dear, our back room IS rather scruffy now he mentions it…

  5. Oh No ~ not again!!! Like someone said … forewarned! I wonder if I have a copy of the letter I wrote last time lurking somewhere … sounds like we might be taking up arms again in the not to distant future! And I SOOOO wish these politicians would use the word education, rather than school! I might be a bit schooly in the way I do things here (more for ease than anything else and because it’s just become our pattern), but I am a firm believer that there is immense value in recognising that education is FAR more than ‘school’. And actually most home-educators that I know are NOT home-school-ers!

    Narrow minded twit, are the words that came to mind, when I read that. Seriously, how ignorant can a man be?!

  6. I do hate the conflation of home education and safeguarding. There is no evidence that they are linked. Children in school fall through the gaps all the time. Home educated children are not cloistered away. Does anyone even bother to look at the research?

    I am glad that more parents are choosing to home educate – use the rights before the government tries to take them away. The more of us there are, the more noise we can make.

  7. Thanks for flagging this up. I’ve been trying to find it online. Do you have a link to it I can share on forums to spread the word?! Thanks.

  8. What a load of generalised, narrow-minded nonsense. There are safe-guarding issues in school, far more infact due to them being over-crowded institutions where bullying and abuse is easily missed, or doled out by teachers who get away with it. I’ve never heard of these ‘scruffy backrooms’ either. Most home-educating families are out and about in the world, and not stuck inside a huge building all day.

    • I suppose the argument is that the ones that are hidden away we don’t know about either?

      I’m not falling for it though, it’s just another ploy to control people more thoroughly.

  9. Let’s not mince words here. What Mr Sheerman means, but is too afraid to say, is that he’s worried about strict Muslim immigrant families restricting the life chances of their daughters. He doesn’t dare say it because he knows he’ll be accused of being racist and a religious bigot (the kiss of PC death for a Labour politician), so he uses “strong faith background” to make it seem like he’s including Christians and Buddhists and everyone else. He also stretches his net to include ALL home educators as needing watching because of course you can’t single out those with a “strong faith background” for regulation.

    In other constituencies it would be the GRT community being the ’cause for concern’. Not to say that there aren’t individuals in government who strongly believe that ALL home educators need watching and that our children would be better off in school, but I get the impression that Mr Sheerman isn’t one of those. He’s just too cowardly to rock the multi-cutural boat, and we know how that can turn out don’t we? *cough*rochdale*cough*

    • He’s retiring at the next election, surely this is the time to be brave? What about the class aspect of his comments?

      I’m not sure what GRT stands for I’m afraid. I do think Sheerman thinks we all need watching, but you may be right, there may be a specific motivation to it.

      • GRT = Gypsy, Roma and Travellers.

        The NSPCC of course think they we ALL need watching, and preferably by the NSPCC. Have you seen their latest collection of lies and distortions? Totally as expected, but still majorly annoying because it’ll be reported on as if they’re somehow impartial experts rather than a bunch of amoral rent seekers.

        • I can’t quite form a response to the latest report. Not one I could publish anyway. Think you’ve put your finger on it there.

  10. I think he’s confusing education with timetabling.

  11. This is ridiculous !! This is a free country or not???
    Thousands of children in America and other countries are successfully educated at home!
    And just a thought about schools! My friend had to just take her son out of high school because he was being bullied by other students . He refused to hide drugs for them so in return they kicked and beat him and then tried to set him on fire!!!! And the school does nothing!! Yes, our children are safer at school than they are at home!! Not!!

  12. they would not have to worry so much if they set up some kind of package for us poor parents that have had ,to not wanted to, save their child from a school that could not protect them. i struggle every week trying to do the best i can, with family against me. we are not all middle class !! some of us just love our child and will not send them to a place they hate, and are so scared they cant use the toilets or go in the play ground. if they offered me a home school package or a on line class i would jump at the chance to be helped.

    • Hi Maria,
      I’m sorry you and your child have had such a tough time. There are online schools available but they aren’t cheap. I do know of one in development under the free school system, so I assume that would be state funded.
      The drawback to that kind of arrangement for many home educators is the strings that come with it, but obviously that’s personal choice.

  13. I have been home educating for 20 years and I think its wonderful that our movement is growing stronger. We clearly worry the Government because the state system has been beaten by dedicated parents who successfully educate their children. Although some of us do not hold teaching qualifications we have shown how dedication and determination can achieve successful educational outcomes, whilst the state system continues to fail a lot of young people.

    Those in power are frightened by our success so we are to be squashed, moulded and put in chains to prevent us succeeding as we too will be dragged down… eventually if they get their way.

    We need to continue challenging local authorities and challenging parliamentarians to maintain the good quality education we give to our children.

    Ignorant power crazed individuals impress me not and need to be discredited.

    • Hi Vanda thanks for commenting.

      It’s great to see the numbers on the increase isn’t it? Yes, those are good points, it must be a bit worrying to see non expert children beating those that have been through the system. And yes, we need to keep challenging.

  14. Joy Williams says:

    At the end of the day they are public servants, we pay their wages, they are here to serve us or we vote for the ones who will. They do not have the right to my children. I tell them what to do, it is their place to do it. My family are still getting over the effects of their management of the economy!

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