Family Transitions and Home Education: Circumstances, Processes and Practices

Gillie, Sarah (2022). Family Transitions and Home Education: Circumstances, Processes and Practices. EdD thesis The Open University.



This study investigates the processes leading certain UK families to home educate. The research focus is: What circumstances inform the transitions of families to home education? The analysis draws upon a large-scale online survey, face-to-face interviews and case studies.

Home educators are regularly portrayed as operating outside the accepted, or even acceptable, norms of society and the education system. Parents seeking inclusion for their children can instead find themselves and their children excluded in - and outside - school. The thesis blends Turner’s liminal theory and Bronfenbrenner’s bioecological systems model to develop a unique analytical framework that gives voice to participants’ circumstances and insights into to their marginalisation and transitions. This framework additionally provides a lens for schools to better understand their relationships with families, to meet institutional, professional and ethical responsibilities in a timely way.

Findings reveal what are cumulative, sometimes protracted, and traumatic processes, leading to discord, crisis and eventual schism between families and schools. These processes, and the fractured relationships that result, can push families to home educate. Sequences of events take on aspects of a metaphorical ritual, with discernible stages in what can be considered a social drama, where initially liminal actors move from discord through crisis to develop a sense of community and more confident home education practice.

Recommendations focus on inclusivity - to help schools prevent the escalation of discord with parents who have become very worried about their children’s progress and wellbeing, and for local and national education departments to develop more co-productive relationships with the families they serve.

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