10. Issues Out of Scope of this Inquiry and the need for further research
10.1 Inevitably during the course of an inquiry, matters arise that require answers, yet either no answer is easily forthcoming, or in searching for it, one becomes aware that the evidence does not exist. In particular I am concerned by two issues.
First, what constitutes ‘autonomous’ learning. Could it be, as many home educating parents have argued, it defies definition but provides the ultimate opportunity for children to develop at their own rate and expands their talents and aptitudes thought the pursuit of personal interest. Or, does it present a more serious concern for a quality of education that lacks pace, rigour and direction. I come to no conclusion but believe further research into the efficacy of autonomous learning is essential.
Case law offers some insight: (23)
“...in our judgment “education” demands at least an element of supervision; merely to allow a child to follow its own devices in the hope that it will acquire knowledge by imitation, experiment or experience in its own way and in its own good time is neither systematic nor instructive…such a course would not be education but, at best, child- minding.” (23)
10.2 My second issue in part relates to the first. I am not convinced by the existing research studies on the outcomes for home educated children both in this country and elsewhere. Although some (but not all) studies have found that home educated children outperform schooled children on a range of indicators, the results may be attributable to parental characteristics (e.g. better educated parents with higher incomes). Some of the studies were also based on small samples and therefore the ability to generalise is limited. Some were based on self selecting, and therefore biased, samples. The diverse characteristics of home educated children make it difficult to generalise about their academic performance.
10.3 Furthermore, little is known about the collective outcomes for home educated children in terms of their qualifications and employment. Evidence offered to this inquiry on the proportion of home educated young people who are not in education, employment or training (NEET) was inconclusive. Again I believe further research is necessary that seeks information on progression to further and higher education and employment.
10.4 I suspect that should the recommendations in this report be accepted, these matters will demand and receive further attention.
(23) Harrison and Harrison v Stevenson (1982) QB (DC) 729/81