Out of sight and out of mind

Think tank: Centre for Social Justice

Author(s): Alice Wilcock; Beth Prescott

November 16, 2022

This report from UK think tank the Centre for Social Justice shines a spotlight on home education in England.

Home education is on the rise, but fundamental questions remain around how best to ensure all children in home education are there through choice, have access to a high-quality education, and are safe from harm. Analysing the data across a range of local authorities in England, the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) estimates that by the start of the 2021/22 academic year a record high of least 81,000 children were being home educated – the equivalent to the population of 80 average-sized secondary schools. Prior to the pandemic, the cohort of children who are home educated was growing by around 20 per cent year on year. The cumulative number of children who were home educated over the course of last year was over 115,000. This is an alarming 34 per cent higher than before the pandemic. In some areas, the total number of children in home education more than doubled. At present, half of all children taught at home were found to have begun their retreat from the classroom during lockdowns. These children are on the margins of our education system and, once they move into home education, they become hidden from sight. This report goes into detail about what we do know about home education from the available data and draws upon interviews with 10 local authorities (LAs) about home education in their locality.

Our recommendations provide a blueprint for a new home education system which balances rights with responsibilities. We outline proposals for a model of oversight with greater transparency and buy-in from parents. Our aims are to:

  • Give all parents the right to choose the best education for their child;
  • Support children to achieve better educational outcomes; and
  • Protect all children equally, whether educated at school or at home.

The CSJ hopes to create a new system which cultivates trust and collaboration between parents, schools, and local government, which will enable all children to thrive in education.