Memorandum submitted by Dr Alan Thomas and Harriet Pattison


1. Introduction: Dr Alan Thomas is a Visiting Fellow at the Institute of Education, University of London and a Fellow of the British Psychological Society. He has spent 15 years researching home education methods, particularly informal and autonomous ones. Harriet Pattison is a research associate at the Institute of Education. Relevant publications are in Appendix A.

Our submission deals with the proposals for monitoring, particularly as they affect autonomous and informal home education.


2. Summary


(i) The Review fails completely to deal with the autonomous or informal approach to home education despite the fact our research was explained in person and in detail to Mr Badman, His dismissal of our work is at odds with what we have experienced in other jurisdictions. Our work has been used to inform home education policy in Australia (Victoria and Tasmania) and in the Republic of Ireland.


(ii) No reasons whatsoever are given for completely disregarding current policy in relation to the conduct and assessment of home education spelt out in detail in the current DCFS guidelines which clearly accommodate the practice of autonomous home education (see Appendix B).


(iii) There is now a substantial body of mainstream educational research in relation to schools which has a direct bearing on autonomous education. Very little reference is made to this even in the literature review. Furthermore, the literature review was not published alongside the Review and can only be obtained by request under the Freedom of Information Act.


(iv) Overall, the Review displays a lack of rigour and accuracy combined with unsubstantiated opinions in relation to our area of expertise. Mr. Badman proposes that research into autonomous education should be undertaken and, at the same time, sets out a detailed system of monitoring that would actually prohibit it.


(v) We recommend, based on our research, that the current DCSF guidelines in relation to monitoring home education are quite adequate.




3. The recommendation that the key terms "suitable" and "efficient" be redefined in the light of the Rose review of primary education shows a clear intent that school based criteria and benchmarks will be used to measure and judge home education. Research clearly shows this to be unsuitable for children learning at home, especially those whose learning is informal or autonomous whether wholly or in part.


4. The recommendation "that parents be required to allow the child through exhibition or other means to demonstrate both attainment and progress in accord with the statement of intent lodged at the time of registration" (recommendation 7) assumes that learning must be structured within a set framework, that progress is a stepwise linear process and that plans are both necessary and best followed without flexibility. Again, our research demonstrates that learning at home is not the same as learning in school and that these demands are particularly incompatible with autonomous home education as recognised in the current DCFS guidelines (see Appendix B).


5. The recommendation that a curriculum at home should be "sufficiently defined to secure a broad, balanced, relevant and differentiated curriculum" (recommendation 2 of the Badman Review) reflects the desires and constraints of schooling where a curriculum must be devised to answer the needs of a large number of children simultaneously. This recommendation lies at odds with current mainstream policy in regard to the importance of individuality in education. In autonomous education we have demonstrated and explained that learning does not have to be planned or constrained in this way to be effective, again in accord with existing guidelines.


6. The literature review which Mr. Badman undertook to provide is not included in the Review. We have since seen a copy provided under the Freedom of Information Act. It ignores vast swathes of relevant educational research both in the mainstream and in relation to home education. Moreover, it is impossible to see on what basis the ad hoc and piecemeal selection of research referred to within the Review has been selected. Similarly, reference is made to the policies and circumstances of home education in some other countries but why these countries have been selected from the very large numbers of countries in which home education is practised is not discernible. As well as research into home education, including ours, research in mainstream education also sheds considerable light on alternative, informal and autonomous education. Examples of this are research into personalised learning, experiential learning, the importance of parental involvement, following the interests of the child and pupil responsibility for learning. None of this is discussed in either the Review or the literature review


7. Mr Badman mentions Summerhill School but is apparently unaware that autonomous education has received an official stamp of approval at the school where lessons are not compulsory. In the agreement between the then DfES and the School following the tribunal at the Royal Courts of Justice in 2000 it was agreed that all future OFSTED inspections should take into account Dr Alan Thomas' expert witness report which explained how children continued to learn informally even when they attended few or no lessons to the extent that they were able to rejoin lessons without difficulty when they so desired. His report was taken in to account in the recent OFSTED inspection.


8. Mr Badman claims to make no judgement on autonomous education, at the same time insinuating that it is little more than "childminding" by quoting an unsubstantiated legal opinion.


9. Mr. Badman dismisses all research into home education on the basis that samples are self selected. He appears not to understand that almost all research requires voluntary participation and is therefore self selected. His own research with LAs resulted in a response rate of 60%, an example of self selection


10. Dr Alan Thomas spent an hour explaining our research on informal or autonomous learning to Mr Badman. While he had every right to appraise and criticise our work, it was completely ignored. It appears therefore that Mr Badman had already made up his mind on this issue.


11. Mr. Badman also ignored the submission from the Institute of Education in which reference is made to autonomous/informal learning as a legitimate educational approach.


12. Mr. Badman mistakenly refers to "research" carried out by Alan Thomas and Jane Lowe. There is no such research. He then quotes from this so called "research" something that we certainly would have maintained, that "education and living are inseparable" However, he completely misunderstands the implication of this which we would use to explain how children learn informally (see para. 5.5 of The Review).


13. There is a complete absence of discussion on the ways that learning at home occurs or any acknowledgement of the challenges that exist in attempting to plan, monitor and track the progress of such learning.




Based on our research, we submit that the current guidelines in relation to the provision of home education are adequate and fully reflect the range of approaches adopted by parents/carers. We make no recommendation concerning whether or not registration should be compulsory because this is outside our research expertise.



Appendix A: Relevant Publications


Thomas, A. (1992) Individualised teaching. Oxford Review of Education, 18, 59-74


Thomas, A. (1994) Conversational learning. Oxford Review of Education, 20, 131-142


Thomas, A. (1998) Educating Children at Home. London, Cassell.


Petrie, A., Windrass, G. & Thomas, A. (2000) Prevalence of home education in England: A Feasibility Study. Report to the Department for Education & Employment.


Thomas, A. (2005) "Informal learning". In: F Hancock & J Collins (eds) Primary Teaching Assistants: Learners and Learning. London, Open University Press.


Thomas, A. & Pattison, H. (2008) How Children Learn at Home, London, Continuum International Publishing Group.



Appendix B: DCSF Guidelines to Local Authorities in relation to a

Assessment of Home Education


Providing a full-time education

3.13 Parents are required to provide an efficient, full-time education suitable to the age, ability and aptitude of the child. There is currently no legal definition of "full-time". Children normally attend school for between 22 and 25 hours a week for 38 weeks of the year, but this measurement of "contact time" is not relevant to elective home education where there is often almost continuous one-to-one contact and education may take place outside normal

"school hours". The type of educational activity can be varied and flexible. Home educating parents are not required to:

􀁺 teach the National Curriculum

􀁺 provide a broad and balanced education

􀁺 have a timetable

􀁺 have premises equipped to any particular standard

􀁺 set hours during which education will take place

􀁺 have any specific qualifications

􀁺 make detailed plans in advance

􀁺 observe school hours, days or terms

􀁺 give formal lessons

􀁺 mark work done by their child

􀁺 formally assess progress or set development objectives

􀁺 reproduce school type peer group socialisation

􀁺 match school-based, age-specific standards.

However, local authorities should offer advice and support to parents on these matters if requested.

15 Regulation 8(2) of the Education (Pupil Registration) (England) Regulations 2006

Elective Home Education Guidelines for Local Authorities



3.14 It is important to recognise that there are many, equally valid, approaches to educational provision. Local authorities should, therefore, consider a wide range of information from home educating parents, in a range of formats. The information may be in the form of specific examples of learning e.g. pictures/paintings/models, diaries of educational activity,

projects, assessments, samples of work, books, educational visits etc.


3.15 In their consideration of parents' provision of education at home, local authorities may reasonably expect the provision to include the following characteristics: 􀁺 consistent involvement of parents or other significant carers - it is expected that parents or significant carers would play a substantial role, although not necessarily constantly or actively involved in providing education

􀁺 recognition of the child's needs, attitudes and aspirations

􀁺 opportunities for the child to be stimulated by their learning experiences

􀁺 access to resources/materials required to provide home education for the child - such as paper and pens, books and libraries, arts and crafts materials, physical activity, ICT and the opportunity for appropriate interaction with other children and other adults.


September 2009