Home Education in the United Kingdom: Policy, Practice, and Challenges

Home Education in the United Kingdom: Policy, Practice, and Challenges

M. Mahruf C. Shohel, Naznin Akter, Md Shajedur Rahman, Arif Mahmud, Muhammad Shajjad Ahsan
Copyright: © 2021 |Pages: 22
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-6681-7.ch013
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Home education is the fastest growing educational movement in the world and the research remains limited on why and how it has become so popular. This chapter highlights the historical development of home education and its legal base in the context of the United Kingdom. It also explores many of the current issues facing the home educators, the government of the UK, and the wider community. Based on the existing literature, it briefly explores the history of the home education movement in the UK and how policy and practice come to this point at this time. It investigates the different perspectives on how and why home education is the fastest growing educational movement in the 21st century's UK.
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In many countries, home education is legalized and heralded as an ‘alternative educational pathway’ (Lees, 2014, p.2). There are major factors behind the global rise of the home education movement as an alternative means of formal education. According to Bruner, ‘Education must be not only the transmission of culture but also a provider of alternative views of the world and a strengthening of the will to explore them’ (1962, p.177). The urges to expand the horizon of possibilities that are brought about by the alternative view is not new. This alternative education in the form of home education has thrived on a global scale (GHEC, 2012) due to the opportunity for parents or guardians to educate their children through means other than traditional schooling systems.

Home education or homeschooling is not a new concept, but it has recently gained popularity among parents and in the research literature. In fact, it is one of the fastest-growing educational phenomena globally (Burke & Cleaver, 2019). Studies show that home-educated children academically do well, sometimes better than their school-educated peers (Rothermel, 2010, 2011, 2012). Its success and rising popularity is not surprising given its widespread sampling by large numbers of the world during 2020 as previously schooled population due to the rules around social distancing and isolation that became the ‘New Normal’ due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. There has already been a development in the research narrative which suggests the importance of parental involvement in children’s education (Barbour, 2020). Considering the time of crisis, it is not naive to assume that lockdown and school closure may contribute to political and parental motivation to broaden the scope and reach of home education in the near future.

The concept of home education is often misrepresented and misunderstood (Neuman & Guterman, 2016; Ray, 2013; 2016) and not well promoted by governments. For instance, in the UK context, according to Lees and Nicholson (2016):

Home educating is not well known and badly understood within and across the four nations of the United Kingdom. For some people, it is not even known to exist at all. The concept is not an easy one to “get” for many in the UK, possibly due to a longstanding equation of schooling with education itself (p.4).

Furthermore, some studies show discouraging findings for home education. For example, Kabiri (2020) found that home educated adolescents showed significant deficits in health-related fitness that could negatively impact both current and future health. In addition, some studies suggest home educated children would acutely experience transitional challenges moving from ‘highly home-contextualized notion of private values and beliefs and confronting the new public values and secular beliefs of the university’ (Marzluf, 2009:49).

Yet, to date, the rise in the number of home educating families keeps increasing across the world (Fensham-Smith, 2019; Fortune-Wood, 2005) for many reasons.  Especially, emerging technologies such as the internet and handheld devices have an impact on home education (Fortune-Wood, 2005; Fensham-Smith, Jolly & Matthews, 2019). The most frequent reasons cited in research for home educating are (1) parental dissatisfaction with academic instruction at formal schools and (2) providing religious instruction as the most important reason for home education although some academics suggest that home education is not motivated primarily by religious reasons, rather, the current school model no longer best serves students, and that ‘participating in the system does more damage than good’ (Silva, 2018, Online). Other reasons why parents choose to home educate their children include concerns about school environments regarding safety, bullying, drugs, or negative peer pressure.

Additionally, opting for home education is often understood or described as a ‘human right’. According to Stevens (2001), home educators’, and their supporters’, right to home education is unproblematic. Any attempts to restrict parents in exercising their ‘right’ as they perceive it are challenged and closely monitored at the local and international level. This right to home education represents a powerful moral and strategic argument against those who oppose it. Home educators’ right to home education claim is based on two distinctive arguments. The first is that home education does not harm children and it does not interfere with the child’s independent right to education. And the second is that in a liberal democratic society, parents’ choice over education is perceived as a fundamental right of the parents or guardian of a child (Monk, 2003).

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