School Can’t


In October 2022, the Federal Senate opened an inquiry into ‘The national trend of school refusal and related matters’. The Home Education Network made a submission to the inquiry in December 2022. Four representatives from HEN appeared as witnesses at the hearing in Melbourne on the 23rd of February. You can read the transcript of that hearing here. HEN’s presentation starts on page 26.

We decided to run a survey to collect stories and data to take to the hearing. With only one week between being asked to be witnesses and appearing in front of the Senate Committee, we sent out links to our survey via Facebook groups, parent organisations, and a few sympathetic professionals.

In six days, we collected 439 responses. The interim report on the survey data, which was shared with the Senate Committee and tabled at the hearing, speaks to the overwhelmingly positive outcomes of home education for kids who struggle to attend school and experience ‘School Can’t’.

The data we have collected so far (now 490 responses as of 10th March) demonstrate the effects of School Can’t on young people and their families. Almost every family experiences family stress and worsening of the child’s anxiety and ability to cope with everyday life. Other significant effects can be financial, effects on the family unit, on a child’s friendships, on mental health, including suicidal ideation and attempts, marriage breakdown, social isolation, development regression and more. Children with disabilities are overrepresented in the ‘school can’t’ cohort.

Our survey data also demonstrate that home education can have overwhelmingly positive effects, with improvements in mental health, emotional regulation, interest in learning, confidence, relationships and engagement. The words ‘life saving’ and ‘life changing’ are used frequently by survey respondents. However, parents and caregivers who choose to home educate are frequently unsupported. There are significant barriers to people commencing home education, including finances, misinformation and lack of information, lack of support and lack of self-belief.

We will be making another submission to the Inquiry, as submissions have been re-opened, and we would like our submission to include as many responses as possible. In the future, we would also like to discuss the data with state ministers, in order to advocate for home educated young people and their families, as well as those who are living with ‘School Can’t’ and are experiencing barriers to commencing home education.