Choosing to home educate

Our experience of supporting families of children with learning difficulties who choose to home educate

Update/Authors’ note: When we wrote this blog we made one reference to ‘home schooling’ in quotation marks to reflect the language that many parents have used in their conversations with us. Unfortunately, in the editing process before publication the quotes were lost and this gave the appearance that we favoured that term over ‘home education.’ Further editing and comment occurred on social media without reference to us. We have agreed to remove use of the term ‘home schooling’ from this article so as to avoid further discussion of the language detracting from the content of the blog.


Salvesen Mindroom Centre is dedicated to supporting, informing and empowering all those living with learning difficulties. When we began our charitable work in 2000, we identified that there are at least five children with some form of learning difficulty in every school class in Scotland.

Salvesen Mindroom Centre has many years of experience supporting the parents and carers of children with learning difficulties. More recently, we have also been working directly with children and young people themselves. From that extensive experience we can identify lots of challenges for families living with learning difficulties. Something that we have noticed occurring more and more often is families opting for home-educating as an alternative to an unsatisfactory provision in the formal Scottish school system.

The law does allow for education at home – education ‘by other means’ according to the legislation – and some families make a positive choice to home educate their children. The Scottish Government acknowledges that we don’t have the statistics to know how many children are being educated at home (1), far less the reasons behind the decision. A survey undertaken by a private Facebook Forum in 2018 received 329 responses, finding that positive choice was an important factor but that ‘disability, chronic illness, unmet support needs- especially severe school anxiety and ASD’ were ‘key drivers’(2)

In our experience, unmet support needs are indeed a frequent catalyst for families removing their child from school. We have observed this in situations where, for example:

  • There are frequent suspensions or exclusions – linked to regular calls to parents throughout the school day regarding “challenging behaviour”.
  • There’s a lack of understanding and/or implementation of strategies to support a pupil – this may be due to lack of staffing or resources within the individual school.
  • Reasonable adjustments not being consistently implemented.
  • Bullying has not been effectively addressed.
  • Parents feel the school is not challenging their child enough academically or academic progress is too slow.

We would usually hope that children who come out of school education for negative rather than positive reasons can return in due course, but the lack of data means that we cannot be sure of the outcomes. It is also a massive commitment for a family to home educate, impacting on jobs, siblings and the whole of family life. When taken for the best of reasons, this can be a great decision for families, but when taken in desperation it risks benefitting no-one and reflects really badly on our education system.


  1. https://www.parliament.scot/S5_Education/Inquiries/20190515In_ltr_froim_DFM_re_asn.pdf (Accessed 10/01/20). There is a petition currently in the Scottish Parliament seeking regulation of home education – http://bit.ly/35KjnCV (Accessed on 10/01/20).
  2. http://bit.ly/2TaxcrV (Accessed on 10/01/20).

Dr Dinah Aitken: Deputy Head of Direct Help & Support
Sarah McClarey: Family Outreach Specialist More about Salvesen Mindroom Centre http://www.mindroom.org/


Twitter: @MindroomInform, @SMRCResearch