If it works don’t fix it. Leave Home Education alone as it works. Sort out the problems in schools, by Ian Cunningham

There is no need for a change in current arrangements for home education. The law on the ‘otherwise’ criterion is clear on the right to an education that is not in school. Below is some evidence for the need for schools to change, based on the book ‘Self Managed Learning and the New Educational Paradigm’ (Cunningham, 2020).

There is ample well-researched evidence on the value of home education. (e.g. Pattinson, 2016). Allegations against parents of potential abuse or neglect have not been proved. There is more evidence against schools in this respect. For instance, traumatic bullying in school (experienced daily by many thousands of children) is almost three times more likely to lead to psychosis in adult life than those without that experience (Varese et al, 2012). Currently almost 100,000 schoolchildren are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder due to severe bullying (Lewis et al, 2019).

Parents have an obligation to make certain that their children have a suitable education in terms of their age, aptitude, ability and any special needs. When school fails to provide this then it is incumbent on parents to find an alternative that does provide a suitable education. This is what many parents do to fulfil their obligations. Any attempt to limit the rights and obligations of parents is contrary to the law as it stands.

There are many examples of children who do not thrive in school and that are well-known. These include looked after children, autistic children, white working class and Afro-Caribbean boys. One example that is often ignored is of summer born children. One research study (Department for Education, 2010) showed that at least 10,000 summer born (May to August) children each year have worse results at GCSE than autumn born (September to December) children just because of their birth date and nothing else.

Also, at the time of the research 18.8% of August born young people entered university at 18 compared with 21.3% for September born young people. Further, the research report shows that summer born children are more likely to be labelled by school as special needs and more likely to have been identified as having a range of symptoms such as learning difficulties and speech, language and communication needs.

The strongest predictor of a satisfying adult life is emotional health and well-being in childhood. Exam grades have little relevance. (Clark et al, 2018). Research studies on mental ill-health have shown that school is a major contributor to the mental health problems of schoolchildren. (Gray, 2018; Lueck at al, 2015; Plemmons et al, 2018). In such circumstances, a parent concerned about a suitable education might wish their child not to be in school.

To some extent terms such as home education or home schooling miss the realities of parents and children who have chosen the ‘otherwise’ route. The research evidence proves that such education occurs in many locations. For instance, libraries, parks, museums, art galleries etc are some locations used – home may not be the primary location for learning. Also, parents tend to use other adults to provide much of the learning. This can be in the form of groups led by adults that provide educational support along with tutors, family members, etc.

In our research on child learning we have found 57 varieties of learning modes that can be used. The classroom in only one of these modes and given that much classroom teaching does not lead to effective learning it’s no surprise that parents and children look to more effective methods. (See Cunningham, 2020) If classroom teaching worked for every child in learning the basics, such as literacy, then the fact that over half of prisoners are functionally illiterate needs explaining, since almost all of these prisoners will have attended school. (Creese, 2016).

In conclusion, I can cite a Department for Education guidance on home education.

“Children learn in different ways and at different times and speeds…. It should be noted that parents from all educational, social, religious and ethnic backgrounds successfully educate children outside the school setting, and these factors should not themselves raise a concern about the suitability of the education being provided.’

DfE, 2018, page 30


Clark, A.E., Fleche, S., Layard, R., Powdhavee, N and Ward, G. (2018) The Origins of Happiness. Princeton: University Press.

Creese, B. (2016)  An assessment of the English and maths skills levels of prisoners in England . London Review of Education, Volume 14, Number 3, November, 13-30.

Cunningham, I. (2020) Self Managed Learning and the New Educational Paradigm. London: Routledge. NB  This book provides more research evidence in relation to issues explored here.

Department for Education (2010) ‘Month of Birth and Education’, Research Report DFE-RR017.

Department for Education (2018) Elective home education. guidance for local authorities – consultation.

Gray, P.  (2018) Children’s and teen’s suicides related to the school calendar. Posted May 31, 2018 at  https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/freedom-learn/201805/children-s-teens-suicides-related-the-school-calendar

Lewis, S. J., Arseneault, L., Caspi, A., Fisher, H. L.et al. (2019) The epidemiology of trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder in a representative cohort of young people in England and Wales. The Lancet Journal of Psychiatry. 16 (3) 247-256

Lueck, C., et al (2015). Do emergency paediatric psychiatric visits for danger to self or others correspond to times of school attendance?  American Journal of Emergency Medicine, 33, 682-684.

Pattinson, H. (2016) Rethinking learning to read. Shrewsbury, UK: Education Heretics Press.

Plemmons, G., et al (2018), Hospitalization for suicide ideation or attempt: 2008-2015.  Paediatrics, 141 (6).

Varese, F., Smeets, F., Drukker, M., Lieverse, R., et al (2012) Childhood adversities increase the risk of psychosis. Schizophrenia Bulletin, 38 (4) 661-671