Everyone agrees that home based education is growing both in numbers and in scope, but despite some excellent pieces of research many questions remain unanswered.
In 2002, after commissioning a feasibility study into research on home based education the charity Personalised Education Now decided to commission a full research project over a number of years.
The Growth of a Phenomenon The phenomenon of home-based education in the United Kingdom is remarkable for its success and growth. It is for this reason that the last ten years have seen some quality research undertaken both in the UK and abroad. In turn, both the research and media interest have led to a growing general interest in home-based education and so the growth continues.
Since there is no compulsion for home educating parents to register with their Local Education Authority there are no accurate figures for how many children are educated at home across the country.
The Under-Secretary for the Department of Education estimated the figure to be between 50,000 and 100,000.
Professor Roland Meighan has estimated the number of home educated children to be in the region of 100,000 children.
Paula Rothermel’s research suggests that there could be as many as 560,600 children of compulsory school age in the UK not attending any form of school asking the reasonable question ‘where are they’.
Whatever the figures and the distribution of home-based educators, one fact is accepted by government agencies and support organisations alike: the number of children involved is growing rapidly. Despite this growth and the huge rise in enquiries to telephone and internet support, the largest home education support organisation, Education Otherwise, still has only around three thousand member families representing perhaps no more than six thousand children.
The need to look to new and innovative ways of giving and accessing support is obvious
The issue of numbers is one that may soon be resolved. The recently passed Children Act 2004 aims to create a de facto database of all children in the UK. This could have the spin-off effect of identifying and effectively registering all home educated children in the UK.
Who are home-based educators? The home education community is notoriously difficult to categorise and, as I have already discussed, estimates of numbers vary. In the feasibility study one hundred and eleven families responded, broken down as in the table below. Children by age in the feasibility study (9%) had a special educational need and 12 (5%) were disabled.
It is a common perception that parents who are most interested in their children’s education and most likely to take charge of their children’s education will be from middle and upper class social scales, but this is not the case amongst home educators
almost 17% of respondents were living in real poverty on incomes of under £10.000 p.a., whilst a further 25% were living on an income below the national average, falling into the category of eligibility for working and child tax credit. In short, a total of 42% of families in the survey earned under the national average wage, whilst 35% of respondents took up state benefits.
Support is a key issue for many home educators, and the extent to which it is being accessed is a key issue within the home educating community
22% of respondents only met with other home educating families occasionally and 21% said that they never meet up with other home educating families in local groups.
the overwhelming consensus of respondents in the survey was that research was needed in order to dispel common myths that surround home education and to raise the profile of home education with the general public.
Research in the USA has already highlighted the importance of the experience of co-operative groups of home educators for some home-based educators, as can be seen in publications like Katherine Houk’s Creating a Co-operative Learning Centre
The title ‘home-education’ often evokes an image of an isolated family studying around a kitchen table with the aid of some outdated textbooks.
Within mainstream education the notion of success has become inherently bound up with targets and measurable outcomes from SATs to GCSEs and beyond. Educational success is easily identified as a certain percentage of children gaining SAT scores as government defined levels or as a certain percentage of school leavers obtaining a specific number of GCSE passes at grade 3 or above. Children are constantly tested and schools are routinely ranked.
the notion of educational success is a much broader and more elusive concept when it comes to home-based education. The law requires education to be ‘efficient’ and case law has established efficient education as being whatever achieves what it set out to achieve
Since home-based educators are not bound by the National Curriculum and have a wide variety of educational philosophies the aims of one family might be very different from the aims of another.
(16.5%) live in semi rural or small town settings. A further sixty-four (25%) live in rural areas. Over all 57% of respondents live either in or around cities.
Home educators, it seems, live in a wide variety of neighbourhoods other than the inner city.
Despite the myth of home-educators as well-off and homogenously middle-class, both the feasibility study and main research shows quite starkly that home-based educators tend to be poorer than average.
With the income of 43% of families under £385 a week, 17% of families under £192 per week and only 5% of families earning over £50,000 a year we can with confidence dispel any myth that home educators constitute a rich elite.
It appears that home educating families are prepared to make significant financial sacrifices and even face real hardship to educate their children at home.
It is widely believed that the home-based education community is growing rapidly.
When families begin to home educate they often express concern that their extended family will disapprove. Such disapproval can have real consequences for a family, particularly if they rely upon grandparents, siblings, ex-partners etc. for child care or other help
“Some members [of my extended family] struggled at first but we tried to answer all their concerns and they see how rounded the children are so they don’t have the worries they had six or seven years ago.”
In those rare cases where extended families remove support an even smaller proportion misguidedly report the home education family to Social Services in the belief that home education cannot be legal. From comments made by respondents, it appears that government handouts, the 1996 Education Act which frequently refers to “compulsory schooling” despite the legality of home education, and local authority campaigns that wrongly state “school is compulsory” all play a part in this misinformation and misunderstanding. Such referrals can lead to deeply felt stress and hurt by families who are at the beginning of new educational venture and occasionally these referrals fatally damage long term relationships with members of the extended family
Despite Education Otherwise having obtained an undertaking from the Department of Education some years ago, government departments continue to misrepresent the law in this way in successive publications, most often those associated with campaigns to reduce truancy.
Some parents stated that they that their decision to home educate generated most hostility from siblings who had school aged children themselves.
It is noticeable that extended families are more likely to be accepting of home education from the outset when a child has a special educational need or specific problem such as school refusal.
The press, support organisations and the DfES on their website most often cite bullying as the main reason for home educating.
An extreme example of the kind of comment we collected was, “Following a suicide attempt and repeated bullying I was advised by a police liaison officer to withdraw him and started teaching him from home.”
For many parents bullying is one among many problems they have with schools, although often a significant one. Families are twice as likely to cite bullying as a reason (if not the reason) to home educate within their first year than any other single cause.
44% of families who have home educated for less than one year cite bullying as a reason to home educate. After the first year this falls to around 28% and halves again to 12.5% in the second year.
An example of this is shown in the following quote. “X Left school due to bullying and school phobia causing serious health problems, all of which cleared up quickly; twenty months on would never consider school as an option again.”
Unsurprisingly, bullying remains a major cause for concern for parents and children across the board. In a recent study the NCPTA (an umbrella organisation for Parent Teacher Associations in England) found that 96% of parents are concerned about bullying and that 21% of all school children have been bullied in the last twelve months. The report goes on to say that, “Children that are bullied at school miss out on valuable learning opportunities and are prevented from reaching their full potential”
Overall nearly two in five families (38%) specifically identify the child’s preference as the reason to home educate.
Of families who have home educated for less than a year, academic issues are mentioned by only one in five families (19%) as a reason to home educate. After one year this rises slightly to one quarter (26%) and returns to around one fifth (20%) for families who have home educated for up to 6 years. The figure thereafter becomes erratic. However, over all it is the third most common reason given. “Our child had a problem with reading and writing. There was no attempt by the school to diagnose the problem or offer extra help. At our own expense we had him assessed as having a specific language impairment (what an educational psychologist would call dyslexia). We discovered that it would take at least 2 years to get our child classified SEN and even then our LEA does not acknowledge Dyslexia as a condition. As our son was already being bullied and switched off education, we decided to withdraw both him and his younger brother from school.”
A surprisingly low number of families (only 5%) report school phobia as a reason to home educate. However, the two attempted suicides reported in the sample are some indication of the misery of a minority of children who can no longer bear to attend school. Education Otherwise reports that it receives a number of calls each week from parents of children who have attempted or threatened suicide due to stress at school.
It is particularly sad that parents continue to report that extremely stressed children are threatened that their parents will be punished if the child refuses to attend school. Despite government guidelines not one person in the survey said that an educational welfare officer (or any other official working for the LEA, Social Services or school) ever volunteered information to them that it was their right to home educate
A small number of families in the survey (5%) reported that teachers were either disrespectful towards or actually bullied their children. In one extreme case the problem reached such a level that it was reported to the police and the teacher was dismissed. In another extreme case a teacher left the country to escape prosecution. There are between 300 and 500 allegations of abuse made each year against teachers. Less than 5% (fifteen to twenty five cases each year) achieve convictions in court, but, given the notorious difficulties of proving abuse at this level, it seems at best cavalier of teacher unions to conclude that all other allegations can be written off as malicious accusations.
Families who opt for home education because their child’s special educational needs were not being met in school often stated that their child’s health or needs were exacerbated by inappropriate treatment in schools. The following two examples were typical of this problem. “My son has ADHD and is on the autistic spectrum – he was 1 percentile too intelligent to attend special school and couldn’t cope with main stream.” “My son has Asperger’s Syndrome and is very bright, but school caused severe behavioural problems and was not providing a suitable education. He had ten hours a week learning support from an untrained person. He was expected to just sit on a cushion the rest of the time!”
A significant number of parents reported that many behavioural problems or even psychological conditions disappeared once they had been home educating for a period of time.
“No adult faced with such an intolerable situation would be coerced into continuing.”
When talking informally to home educators, it is often apparent that many have strong feelings on the subject of the National Curriculum. For many home-based educators rejection of the National Curriculum as an efficient education is often a primary motivator in rejecting school per se. Other home-based educators continue to keep one eye on the National Curriculum and this sometimes reflects ambivalence towards long term home education.
Families who want to keep open the option of returning their child to school worry that their child may not be able to reintegrate without difficulty unless they have studied the National Curriculum at home, at least to some extent.
results. Very few families (only 2.5% of all respondents) make an attempt to fully follow the National Curriculum. This is, of course, the right of home educators, who are not in any legal way constrained by the National Curriculum.
Again this shows a move away from school models of education with few (only 10%) of home educators use curricula type textbooks frequently,
There is a popular mythology of home-educators as old-fashioned families huddled around the kitchen table to learn from outdated text books. This image is often confirmed by media enquiries who ask for photos of children learning in this way to illustrate articles on home education.
91% of respondents agree that children’s own motivation is the key to learning and this result was also underlined by the fact that 85% agree or strongly agree that, “Children who learn what they want, when they want it, learn much more efficiently.”
Concern over socialisation is often the first issue raised by those new to home education, whereas, for long-term home educators, problems with the ‘S word’ are seen as one of the greatest and most damaging myths about home-based education.
From conversations with home educators it is clear that some parents find certain resources problematic
66% of parents believe television to be, “a rich source of information” for home educators
76% believe the internet to be amongst the most useful resources
“[our style of education is] very much a full time, holistic approach to education, we do not divide experiences into educational and non-educational, but regard all experiences and interests as having an educational value.”
Many parents explicitly stated that it is important to provide an education which will enable children to live in the modern world, “Our learning is based on what we feel our children need for their future.” “The overall aim is that [he] should reach adulthood fully equipped to live in a modern society.”
“intrinsic motivation,” a concept most fully developed by Jan Fortune-Wood in books on autonomous education and parenting, to suggest that children learn best when they are learning what they want or are intrinsically motivated to learn.
A lot of research is now available online, especially that originating from the USA and Canada. as well as being a place to archive otherwise unavailable third party research I intend to continue to use my website ‘www.homeeducationresearch.org’ to develop links to this research as it becomes available it will also be used to publish my own research.
Roland Meighan has contributed a great deal to the literature on and research into home based education in a wide range of books and articles.
Alan Thomas, an educational psychologist at the London Institute of Education conducted research with home educating families first in Australia and later in London, initially with the intention of debunking the claims of home education. Following his research in the field, including a protracted stay with a home educating family, he became a proponent of home education.
Jan Fortune-Wood interviewed many families practicing autonomous, child-led education for her book, Doing It Their Way
Terri Dowty edited Free range Education, one of the most widely read books on home education recently published. Known as ‘Fred’ the book is a series of case studies written by the families following a range of home education styles and philosophies.
Julie Webb’s Those Unschooled Minds  is another study that examines case histories; this time focussing on adults who were home educated.
Leslie Barson’s work, Communities of Practice and Home Education Support Groups examines home education support groups using the models of ‘communities of practice’ (E. Wenger), i.e. groups that have a “joint enterprise, mutual engagement and shared repertoire.”
Trevena Whitbread’s undergraduate degree dissertation in 2004 was on the subject of home educated children’’ome educated childrens ct of the access to university access to university. She contacted thirty universities of which twenty-seven said that they would be happy to interview home educated young people to discuss their achievements
The National Home Education Research Institute is closely linked to the evangelical Christian organisation Home Education Legal Defence Association and has published a research journal in the States for over twenty years, establishing a considerable mass of data. Although, for cultural reasons, much of it does not translate into the British context, it does give a wealth of material that indicate high educational outcomes, as well as positive social and psychological development, high rates of employment and entrepreneurial outlook
The Cato Institute report on home education, Home Schooling – Back to the Future? examined the growing numbers of home educated children attending universities and concluded that home education could produce superior results at a fraction of the cost to the state.
Grace Llewellyn did work similar to Trevena Whitbread’s (see above) in the USA. Her findings, from twenty-seven university admissions tutors, showed that none of them were averse to enrolling home educated children. She also found that some Ivy League colleges such as Harvard go so far as reserving places specifically for home educated children.
In Australia L Reilly and Tom O’Donoghue published a report Home Schooling of Children with Disabilities They found that parents tend to withdraw children from school because of negative socialisation, insufficient academic progress and a failure by schools to understand their child’s special needs. They also found that the majority of parents of special needs children home educate in a child-centred style,
Lawrence M Rudner’s Scholastic Achievement and Demographic Characteristics of Home School Students 1998, is a particularly interesting piece of research from the USA. It indicates that there are both significant differences and similarities between home education in the UK and home schooling in the US in terms of both methods and demographics. In the US over 14% of home-schooling families have an income in excess of $75,000 and nearly a third have an income of over $50,000, while less than 25% have an income of less than $25,000. In contrast, in the UK 36% of home educating families are on earnings related benefits. In the UK 43% of families earn less than £20,000, 74% of families have less than £30,000 and 88% of families have less than £40,000. In short British home educating families are far poorer than their US counterparts.
The latest figures from gov.uk record that there are currently 13.8 million dependent children living in the UK. This site also records that there are 8.5 million pupils attending schools and pre-schools ages ranging from 3-18 years. It is reasonable to assess from these figures that 5.3 million, over 30%, of the UKs dependent children are being home schooled.
Children not enroled in education are a community that is connected by one thing, not attending school. They are spread out throughout the country but have a desperate need as they are unrecognised and receive no help. We aim to change all that.
There are 5.3 Million dependent children under 18 not in school. The times Educational Supplement states “45% of those people educated from home are receiving an inadequate education. Home educated children are not presently helped by anyone other than parents and perhaps a local parent group. The government does not take responsibility for these people nor do any other private school”.
Of those who are not receiving a good education we aim to help. Because every child deserves a quality education.
Parents, even with some basic training, simply do not have the appropriate skill set to ensure their children are learning at the appropriate pace and to a curriculum that will allow them to participate meaningfully in Britain’s future economy.
Simple calculation of available statistics from the ONS uk.gov website determine that up to 5.3 million, over 30% of the UKs dependent children are being home schooled and not gaining a satisfactory education.
Research key facts include:
- Children out of school is Growing at an estimated 8% per annum
- 3 Million Under 18s not in formal education UK according to stats from gov.uk *
*This figure is found by the ONS.gov stat of how many under 18s in the UK and taking away how many under 18’s in education including nursery school for over 1s.
13.8 million dependent children living
8.5 million pupils attending schools or preschools from age 0 to 18
45% of those known to Local Authorities are not receiving a satisfactory education according to .tes.com
Home schooling is education for children inside the family home, or ‘Outside of school’.
We can also see from research done by Mike Fortune-Wood published in the Home Based Education 1: Who Why How.
in relation to home-schooling shows just how severe the need for this project is. Their study shows that only 1% of home schoolers are following the full National Curriculum. Which although not illegal does raise concerns about the future of these children. And only 38% follow some of the National Curriculum. And of those families that are homeschooled 17% live in real and total poverty; living on a household income of less that £10,000 per year. And a further 25% had an income below average. And another 42% of families in the survey earned under the national average wage.
OECD report a fifth of British teenagers ‘drop out of school at 16’
Britain has more teenage drop-outs than in most other developed nations.
The OECD report – Equity and Quality in Education – charted the number of pupils leaving school before entering upper-secondary education beyond the age of 16.This shows us that a large part of the problem is that poor children are also failing to stay in education past 16. We can address this by encouraging continued learning from home.
Research in the USA has already highlighted the importance of the experience of co-operative groups of home educators for some home-based educators, as can be seen in publications like Katherine Houk’s Creating a Co-operative Learning Centre
The organisation poverty.org.uk states that boys than are statistically more likely than girls not receive an education. Family income also has an impact in education as richer families can afford educational tuition.
Home schoolers may have been bullied, are disabled, have a high IQ, Suffer from health problems or have Special Educational Needs, as well those that have left/ got lost in the school system.
The target beneficiary are likely to be highly adapt to using technology. This combined with the demographic geographic location, makes a website the best way to help these people.
The Times Educational Supplement has said 45% of home educated students are not receiving a good education, so we intend to help those children to get one either at home or by encouraging a return to school for those that are ready.
We also know that there are a large number of students home educated that wish to return to school as it is the second most asked question about homeschooling in the UK after “how do I homeschool?”