Educational Freedom and Home Education cards.
Frequently there are discussions around the use of Home Education Cards, specifically about whether they ‘prove’ a person home educates, and potential future consequences arising because of their existence.
Home Education Cards have existed for years. Education Otherwise one of the largest Home Education Charities in the UK having started in 1977, provide cards for their paid up members and have done for years. Some venues offer discounts for schools and have extended this to home educating families if they can ‘prove’ they home educate. We know there is no such thing as ‘proof of home education’. Some families have a letter from the LA from when they deregistered from school which they can use as ‘proof’. Other families, particularly for those who Home Education was a positive choice so their children have never attended school, need another option, so they would use their Education Otherwise card.
Educational Freedom started in 2013 with a bunch of volunteers who shared a vision to create a website, whose support was freely accessible to all. As part of that, we decided that because the information and support was to be given out for free, we did not want to have a membership. After consultation, we did decide to produce a card, that quoted the law, so young people or families could feel more confident when out during the week, without fear of not knowing what to say when stopped by truancy officers.
Sometimes there are discussions around discounts and proof that specifically blame Educational Freedom as the source of all discounted and proof related problems. They claim that Ed Free sells cards for profit to unsuspecting new home educators, and that Ed Free contacts venues directly in order to secure a discount solely available to our card holders.
Educational Freedom is a non-profit organisation. None of our volunteers receive anything from Ed Free, all have given their time and expertise freely to help the home educating community, including costs of phone calls etc. We are registered with HMRC and our accounts are submitted each year. All our money is accounted for.
We work tirelessly to support home educators and have no motive other than caring. Feel free to share this explanation any time a discussion around home education cards and the role Ed Free has played arises.
We do not think cards are needed for home education, but have provided them because people were complaining that paper (LA letters) or laminated cards were not surviving long in their wallets and they wanted a more durable option. Our cards are plastic, credit card quality, with a space to write your family name or contact details, and are sold at cost, with the few pennies leftover being used for maintaining the website. If you wanted to create your own card, we do not have an issue with that, but highly recommend it contains the relevant parts of the law. As has been stated before, if you do not want a card at all, preferring to educate venues about home education, that is the better option.
Some venues do accept cards as ‘proof’ of home education, but it is entirely at the discretion of the venue. These may be EO cards, Ed Free cards, LA-specific cards, or even ones you have made at home. Cards are not essential for home educating (nor would we want them to be), but some people do find them useful. Our advice is always to talk to the venue and explain about home education and that there is no such thing as ‘proof’. Educating the venues will benefit our whole community
As home educators, we have taken on the cost of educating our children and should not assume that we can always get schools’ prices. However, some venues do give discounts, and we have a list of some of those places on our website. We did confirm the discount available with some venues, and in every case we have tried our best to educate the venues about home education and ‘proof’ and all discounts are available to all home educators. As a result, some venues do not require proof beyond turning up with school-aged children during term-time. Others do ask for ‘proof’, but accept a variety of options (and never just our cards), whilst a few others specify that they only accept letters from the LA.
What about Merlin? Didn’t Educational Freedom cause the HE discount from Merlin group to be retracted?
In short: No. Merlin did used to offer the schools rate to home educators, and accepted a variety of ‘proof’s; however it was dependant on the person on the gate/phone whether it was accepted on the day. Unfortunately, a few years ago, there was a card that seemed to be set up as a money-making scheme. When it was first announced, it cost £25/year for “exclusive” discounts that were already available to the home educating community. Many home educators, including Ed Free, tried to convince the owners of this company that such a card would not be beneficial to the home educating community, at which point they halved their rates. Unfortunately, they did not stop contacting venues, trying to get freely available discounts solely for themselves. In the meantime, some “well-meaning” home educators took it upon themselves to contact various venues, including Merlin. Merlin decided they didn’t want to involve themselves in the squabble amongst home educators and pulled their discounts for home educators. Some time passed and Merlin changed the rules, now home educators can get a discount if they produce a letter from their LA, or if they book in a group. Though some Merlin venues have accepted cards on the door as ‘proof’, it is not guaranteed so we do not recommend a family turning up either with cards as their sole ‘proof’ or without contacting the venue directly, first.
If you have any concerns feel free to message us and we will happily discuss what worries you.