Home education documentary sparks debate

Anne Longfield the Children's Commissioner

Anne Longfield OBE, the Children’s Commissioner for England recently produced a report and featured in a documentary on home education.                                                                                                                                 

Ryan Stevenson

We discuss the report from the Children’s Commissioner on home education and the related Dispatches documentary

Children's Commissioner report and documentary on home education sparks debate

Anne Longfield OBE, the Children’s Commissioner for England, recently produced a report on home education. The report – “Skipping School: Invisible Children – How children disappear from England’s schools” – has received a lot of press. Channel 4 then aired a documentary, with Longfield, which featured some families with children in home education. The documentary has angered many homeschooling parents.

Anne Longfield the Children's Commissioner
Anne Longfield, the Children's Commissioner for England

What are the report's key findings?

The report featured a sympathetic introduction from Longfield. She empathised with parents who find themselves having to remove their children from “an unforgiving school system”. She shared the anecdote of a parent likening her daughter’s school to the Hunger Games. She is clearly passionate about children receiving a good education.

The report discusses the growth of home education, citing research from the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ACDS). ACDS indicates that the number of children in home education has doubled over the last 4 years. The report also discusses reasons for this sharp growth, including: 

  • Unmet needs: includes dissatisfaction with school as well as health and emotional problems.
  • Budgetary strains: funding per pupil has fallen 8% since 2010, requiring cuts to resources to support students with additional needs.
  • Off-rolling: the practice of schools removing a pupil without a formal exclusion process through pressurising parents.

While the report did conclude that many parents are devoted to providing their children with high quality education, it also cautioned about parents struggling to cope. It also discusses the need to improve the well-being of children being home educated. 

What are the report's key recommendations?

  • A home education register: calls for parents to register home-schooled children with the local authority.
  • Strengthened measures to tackle off-rolling: including increased attention from Ofsted and school's acknowledging that poor behaviour may be linked to special educational needs (SEN). Children withdrawn from school should be easily able to re-register with the same school.
  • Advice and support for children and families: within three days of a decision for a child to be withdrawn from school, the local authority should visit the family to provide advice and support.
  • Greater oversight of children: council education officers should visit each child being home educated at least once per term to assess their education and welfare.
  • Decisive action against unregistered schools: government to strengthen the law to make it easier to prosecute illegal schools.

What has caused unhappiness amongst homeschooling parents?

The Children’s Commissioner report would have been better received, presumably, if not for the Dispatches documentary. Dispatches is Channel 4’s investigative current affairs program.  

Dispatches showed a series of case studies, which featured Anne Longfield spending time with different families with children in home education. It also featured the distressing case of Dylan Seabridge, a neglected eight year old boy who died of scurvy in 2011.

We understand why homeschooling parents might feel angry after watching the documentary:

  • Did Dispatches present any of the numerous home education success stories? 
  • Were the selected case studies a representative sample? 
  • Did it select cases designed to stir up emotions about "invisible children" being harmed by their parents? 
  • Was a balanced view of home education shown?
Channel 4 Dispatches documentary about home schooling by Anne Longfield
Channel 4 Dispatches documentary on home education, presented by Anne Longfield

Some thoughts on home education

Most parents do not make the decision to home educate their children lightly. Under-resourced schools, additional learning needs and mental health and anxiety can all play their part (see our previous blog on the subject). Homeschooling often requires a parent to stay at home, impacting on their career and personal time. Parents may also need to spend money on hiring tutors to help fill gaps in their own knowledge. It is therefore a journey that requires commitment and dedication.

Responding to the report on home education:

  • Anntoinette Bramble, Chair of the Local Government Association's Children and Young People Board, commented:

    “Councils fully support the rights of parents to educate their children in the best way that they see fit, and the vast majority of parents who home educate their children do a fantastic job ..." 

  •  A Department for Education spokesperson said:

    Where children are being home educated, we know that in the vast majority of cases parents are doing an excellent job. We also know, however, that in a very small minority of cases children are not receiving the standard of education they should be ...” 

What do you think?

At Bright Heart, we speak to many parents who feel let down by schools and are desperately trying to help their children realise their potential. We would love to hear your views on the documentary and report.

Please share your thoughts on our Facebook post or get in touch if you prefer!


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Tips for Finding the Best Tutor Near You

Finding the best Maths and English tutor

We provide a few tips for finding the best Maths, English, Science or special educational needs tutors near you.

Ryan Stevenson

Searching for the best tutor for your child? 

In this post we help you make that decision

Tips for Finding the Best Tutor Near You

I am an experienced maths and science tutor with significant special educational needs (SEN) tutoring experience. I am therefore familiar with the questions parents ask and also what makes a good tutor. In this post I share some tips to help you find a great tutor. Three common questions from parents are:

  • Do you know a good Maths tutor / English tutor / Science tutor near me who can help my child?
  • My child is falling behind in class and I struggle to help them. Do you think they need a tutor?
  • My child is dyslexic / dyspraxic / has a SEN. Do you know a good SEN tutor near me who can help?

Let’s look at some themes which come up in these questions, and in doing so, help to answer them.

Finding the best Maths and English tutor
Choosing the right tutor can make a big difference to your child's enjoyment of the subject and their long-term success

Why do you need a tutor?

In answering the first question regarding a good tutor, it is important to understand your objectives. Why do you feel a tutor is needed? By parents exploring this with their child they can get an idea of what is meant by ‘good’ and which approach is best. Some reasons for seeking a tutor may include:

  • My child is falling behind in class and struggling with their homework.
  • My child feels alienated in class and is not engaging with the subject or lesson.
  • I want my child's grade to improve to qualify for A-Levels or university, or complete GCSEs.
  • My child is easily distracted or has learning challenges and is not receiving the necessary one-to-one attention.

What makes a good tutor?

In our experience, an important starting point is that the student needs to feel acknowledged and in an emotionally comfortable learning environment. A ‘good’ tutor is therefore one who can build rapport with the student.  This increases confidence, leading to self-sufficiency. It is best to communicate all known learning issues to the tutor to help with lesson planning. A good tutor (or tutoring agency) will ask relevant questions before tuition begins.

All parents wish for their child’s grades to improve.  However, certain aspects of learning need to be identified along with the particular objectives before steady progress is made. This preliminary questioning can help determine what the specific role of the tutor is. For example, it could be to re-engage the student with learning, increase confidence, fill in missing gaps or prepare for a specific exam e.g. 11+ or GCSEs.

When to hire a tutor

Parents frequently seek to hire tutors with the approach of important exams and the natural desire for their child to do well. For some students ‘playing catch-up’ suddenly becomes an extra source of stress. It is therefore better to act sooner rather than later if there are any concerns. Some tips related to tuition timing include:

  • Be proactive, rather than reactive. This reduces pressure.
  • When looking to hire a tutor, look at their availability right up to the exam.
  • Plan ahead as popular tutors can get booked out from mid-September for the school year.

If you are unable to help with your child’s homework, it may be worth trying outside help before subject complexity increases. Subject performance in Maths and Science is difficult to bring back on track in a few weeks.  This is especially true if there are fundamental concepts missing or learning challenges present. A tutor is therefore a good investment in these cases. If tuition is provided holistically, it can also address self-esteem and self-limiting beliefs.

Tutors who can address special educational needs (SEN)

Many tutors do not have experience with special educational needs. Many tutoring agencies therefore throw their tutors into situations they are not properly prepared for by matching the student purely on their knowledge of the subject. This then causes problems where specific approaches are needed to tailor the lesson to the unique needs of the student. If you do have a child with additional needs then be sure to ask the tutor (or tutoring agency) what experience the tutor has, and what approaches they have used previously.

Non-neurotypical students are often more sensitive to their environment, as well as body language and behaviour of people in close proximity. Therefore, it is best to find a SEN tutor with relevant experience to avoid a negative learning experience for the student, which can push subject interest in the wrong direction.

Some tips when looking for a SEN tutor:

  • Check to see if they have experience in the particular SEN.
  • Ask them their about their tutoring approach with non-neurotypical students or students with the specific SEN.
  • Patience is an important general trait for all SEN tutors. Try to assess the tutor's behaviour and manner in this regard.
  • A tense or highly strung tutor is usually a poor match for a student with additional needs.
  • If using a tutoring agency to find a SEN tutor, check their SEN credentials and whether this is a focus area.
  • Make sure the tutor has an enhanced DBS. Vulnerable students require extra safeguarding.
  • Once identified, make sure the tutor is willing to work with all parties involved e.g. the school, Local Authority, family. A team effort is usually more successful.

Next steps

As seen from the above, careful consideration is needed in finding the best tutor near you. We offer a free no obligation in-person consultation. Please get in touch to find out how we can help you to find a great tutor. We plan to write more on this topic in a future blog to explore whether it is worth using a tutoring agency.


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The Rise of Home Education

home education

The Rise of Home Education

Home education, or homeschooling in the US, has traditionally been more popular in the US than the UK, with about 2 million students being homeschooled. However, it is on the rise in the UK with reports of at least 50,000 to 80,000students being educated by parents and/or private tutors.

home education

The number of students in home education in the England has doubled in the last 6 years2. There are many reasons why parents decide to embark upon this route:

  • Dissatisfaction with academic instruction or philosophy
  • Increased competition to obtain a place within a school
  • Prolonged bullying of the student
  • Behaviour issues within school leading to expulsion
  • Special educational needs
  • More flexibility desired in educational practices
  • Desired religious or moral instruction
  • Chronic illness
  • To increase knowledge and exposure via travel
  • To connect with nature more via outdoor education

Home education leads to better than average qualifications and does not prevent access to tertiary education. One issue that parents have to pay attention to is socialisation, however, this has become much easier to overcome through online networking and parents creating home education groups and meetups.

Under English and Welsh law parents do not require any qualification to start home education and there is no requirement to conform to the National Curriculum or undertake examinations2.

At Bright Heart Education we respect the freedom of choice to educate your child as you think best, and can help support you on this path and work to meet your unique requirements.

  1. Law and Parents, 22 January 2018: Regulations On The Home Schooling of Your Child‘.
  2. The Telegraph, 7 July 2017: ‘Number of children home taught doubles in six years amid increased competition for school places‘.
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