Implications of higher estimates for the number of home educated children in this country

Different people make different guesses about the number of electively home educated children in this country. These guesses though, remain just that. Paula Rothermel a few years ago produced a figure of almost half a million, the York Consulting research suggested perhaps a twentieth of that. When Graham Badman put forward the figure of a possible eighty thousand, some claimed that this was a wild exaggeration.

The reason that the estimates vary so greatly is that different people are trying to prove different things. Since nobody has the least idea of the numbers, nobody can really argue with the guesses. If a home education organisation wishes to demonstrate that home education is hardly worth bothering about, they might suggest that only thirty thousand or so are involved. If on the other hand, somebody wishes to portray it as an unstoppable, mass movement, then the claim might be made that the numbers exceed a hundred thousand. Those calling for increased regulation of home education use the same tricks.

Mike Fortune-Wood now claims that his research suggests that the true number of home educated children in this country is eighty thousand. Let us take that number and see where it leads us. York Consulting found that the average number of home educated children per family was 1.4. This would suggest that there are somewhere in the region of a hundred thousand parents of home educated children in the country. (This is based upon the blatantly heteronormative assumption that each child will have two parents and if I offend any families living in seaside resorts on the south coast where this may not be the case, I can only apologise.)

Not all parents of home educated children are in favour of home education. We know that some mothers have difficulties with ex-partners over this question. Even with parents who remain together, one or the other can be against the practice. So when working out what percentage of parents of home educated children are in favour of this aspect or other, I think it wise to take all the parents into account when making our calculations. After all, when responding to those conducting research, it is quite common for both parents to submit separate responses.

A fairly large Internet list like the Badman Review Action Group has about seven hundred and fifty members. Not all those who belong are actually home educating parents. There are quite a few people like me and Ali Edgely who do not have a child aged between five and sixteen being educated out of school. I would guess that about a third of the members are like that. The remaining five hundred would mean that for all the anger and noise generate on such a list, it represents the interests of just 0.5% of home educating parents. Hardly representative! When they conducted a survey to see who was opposed to compulsory registration, eighty nine people voted against the idea. Even if we assume that all were home educating parents, this tells us the views of fewer than 0.1 of home educating parents in this country.

Even the biggest groups, Education Otherwise for instance, have only three thousand members or so. Again, not all these are home educating parents. If they were, then this group would represent the interests of just 3% of home educating parents in this country. Realistically, this is more like to be 2%, as many members are not genuine home educators. The implications for the legitimacy of these organisations is greatly diluted, the larger the estimated numbers of home educated children. Try looking at the responses sent to the Badman review and the subsequent select committee hearing and then calculating by removing about a third, sent by people who were not home educating parents, and then expressing the remaining numbers as a percentage of a hundred thousand. They are pitifully small in number and hardly able to claim anything at all about the average home educating parents.