Researcher Jennifer Alburey, who has a professional background in law and is a member of the home educating community in England, carried out qualitative research on the social opportunities and visibility of home educated children.
“The study found a highly sociable and visible community, whose children were engaged in a wider variety of groups than would be available to children educated in school. There was regular sight of children by a huge range of professionals and volunteers with safeguarding duty and moral duty to report any child protection concerns. The increased reporting rates of HE children to Social Services would indicate that visibility and safeguarding issues do not mainly lie at the identification and reporting stage. Indeed, the community repeatedly raised legal overstep on behalf of the LAs, perhaps due to stereotypes around increased risk.
These same children were regularly seen by Government employees from departments other than the EHE team including health, libraries and leisure, in addition to a vast array of community groups plus HE community groups. It appears to be overlooked within much of the literature that the HE community itself contains safeguarding professionals and people who would exercise their moral duty to report abuse.”
Responses showed that a sizeable majority of children:
- attended regular, community activities led by DBS checked volunteers or staff across over 80 different activities including Guides Association, Scouts Association, St John Ambulance, sporting activities, arts, drama, music and language
- attended regular HE specific activities across more than 70 different activities
- regularly or occasionally used Leisure Centres, libraries, museums and other facilities
Almost all participants children were registered with a GP (of 449 who answered, 447 were registered, 2 were not)
Alburey examines the literature around the socialisation of home educated children and finds that there is a stated concern over potential ‘isolation and invisibility’ of home educated children. The research which is concerned with lack of socialisation often seems to only count socialisation which looks exactly like school and that “there is a presumption that children at school have a high level of social engagement due to the quantity of children and adults they are exposed to daily”.
However as Alburey says, this presumption is unexamined. “In practice, enforced association is different from socialisation and does not necessarily translate into meaningful or positive social engagement – as demonstrated by the large numbers of children removed from school to be home educated due to bullying or other negative social experiences.”
The socialisation of home educated children is indeed different from that of school children but there are factors which might possibly mean that home education is in fact a more positive environment for developing these emotional and social skills. Factors include socialising with a wider age range of children, in a wider range of situations and environments and in an emotionally supportive and child-centred environment.
“Indeed, the social skills learned by children conditioned to comply with the behavioural and social expectations and normalcy of a largely behaviourist school environment would not necessarily be those same skills that would transfer over to a more sociologically usual and broad environment such as day to day life within a community, or a work environment.”
A number of studies have found that home educated children score at or above the average on social skills tests as children who went to school with greater social skills. Research (Medlin & Butler 2018, Burton & Slater 2019, CRHE 2020, Bergstrom 2012) found that home educated children had high levels of social engagement, active social calendars, large social networks and ample opportunity to socialise.
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