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Further rise in children being home schooled

There has been a 7% rise in the number of children being home schooled in the last year, according to a survey by the Association of Directors of Children’s Services.

Local authorities in England were surveyed using data from the first school Census Day of the academic year on 7 October. It found 81,196 children and young people were known to be electively home educated. This marks a 7% increase from the same school census day in 2020.

Gail Tolley, Chair of the ADCS Educational Achievement Policy Committee, said: “Every child has the right to a suitable education, and we recognise that parents have the right to educate their children at home. Where they choose to do so we want this to be a positive experience for everyone involved.

“For six years now, we have seen year on year increases in the number of children being educated at home. This report highlights just how much of an impact the pandemic and the closure of some schools has had on this number, with parental concern about the pandemic cited as the most common reason why children became electively home educated in 2020/21,” she added.

The ADCS analysis also found that during the 2020/21 academic year an estimated 115,542 children and young people were known to be electively home educated at some point during the academic year, which was a staggering 34% increase from the 2019/20 academic year.

Health concerns related directly to COVID-19 was the most commonly cited reason provided for home schooling followed by reported mental health problems including anxiety among children.

Gail Tolley added: “Local authorities have a duty to ensure that children being educated at home are safe and receiving a good education, yet we do not have a role in assurance of this nor is there adequate guidance on what a suitable education looks like. ADCS is concerned that without powers to see both the child and their place of learning, we cannot know that these children are receiving a suitable education in a safe and appropriate learning environment. We are therefore calling on government to establish a mandatory register of all electively home educated children with a fully funded duty on the local authority to visit the child, at a minimum annually, to assess the suitability of the education provided. We can only support children’s education and safeguard the children who are known to us.

“We still await the outcome of the Department for Education’s consultation in 2019 that proposed new duties on local authorities including a national register of all EHE children and young people and a duty for local authorities to support parents who educate their child at home. If implemented, this must be fully funded to reflect the increasing size of this cohort so that we have the means to provide the oversight these children and young people deserve,” she added.

Cllr Anntoinette Bramble, Chair of the Local Government Association’s Children and Young People Board, said: “Disruption to school education due to the pandemic has accelerated already rising numbers of parents and carers choosing to home educate their children.

“Although most parents and carers provide a good home education, the LGA is concerned that the pandemic has led to increasing numbers of children receiving education outside the classroom and missing out on the benefits that a school environment brings, such as safeguarding and learning and socialising with other children.

“While parents, carers, councils and schools all have responsibilities to ensure that children receive suitable education, some significant gaps in legislation mean that it is possible for children to slip through the net and be exposed to serious risks by not being in full-time education.

“To tackle these issues, councils need powers to enter the homes of, or otherwise see, children in order to establish whether they are receiving a suitable education. The government should bring forward its plans to introduce a register for all home educators to ensure that adequate safeguarding measures are in place.

“As well as these important measures, councils also need the resources to better identify children not receiving a suitable education and intervene if they are being taught in unsuitable or dangerous environments,” she concluded.

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