In Brief

What’s behind the surge in homeschooling?

Number of children being educated at home has risen by 27% to almost 58,000

The number of children being homeschooled is “increasing rapidly”, according to the education watchdog.

Research by Ofsted suggests that some parents are removing their children from mainstream secondary schools in order to avoid prosecution and fines for non-attendance, after pupils skip classes as a result of their “needs not being met”, reports The Telegraph

“I have been forced into doing it because there was no other option,” one parent told Ofsted. “If I didn’t, I’d end up with a fine or prison.”

A survey carried out by the Association of Directors of Children’s Services last November found that 57,873 children were being educated at home, a 27% year-on-year increase.

“Parents can move children to home education to avoid pressures at school, for example to avoid prosecution for non-attendance, and permanent exclusions,” says Ofsted in a newly published report. 

The study was based on consultations with families, schools and councils in the East Midlands, and suggests that some parents who choose to homeschool their children may be trying to “play the system” after being issued with penalty notices.

The researchers found that the decision to remove a child from mainstream school could happen within a single day, “with little or no discussion beforehand and often without consulting the child”, says The Guardian.

“In some cases, pupils are moved so quickly they are not even able to say goodbye to their friends,” the newspaper adds. In others, parents complained that schools refused to let departing children take their schoolwork with them.

The report also examined cases of “off-rolling” - when a child is unofficially removed from a school to boost overall results. The greatest increase in children being homeschooled has been among those due to take their GCSEs.

“Unfortunately, our evidence suggests that letting children go can be an easy option for schools,” says the Ofsted report. “Our research did find examples that support other evidence that parents have been coerced into moving to home education.”

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Amanda Spielman, Ofsted’s chief inspector, says that choosing to homeschool a child can be a legitimate choice, but only where parents were able to provide a genuinely well-rounded education.

“However, children should not be moved to home education simply to resolve difficulties in school,” she said. “Schools, local authorities and parents need to work together before such a decision is made, to make sure that home education is genuinely in the interests of children and not just the best thing for schools or parents.”

Julie McCulloch, the director of policy at the Association of School and College Leaders, added: “Cuts both to school budgets and to wider support services make it increasingly difficult for schools to provide the high-level support that some children need, which can lead to frustration and friction between schools and families.”

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