Children schooled at home up 13% despite fears over lack of regulation | Education
The number of children who are home-educated in England has gone up almost 13% in the last year, amid concern that many parents are unable to provide a suitable education, according to a report.
Official figures published by the government’s school admissions watchdog revealed that more than 60,000 pupils were home-schooled in 2018/19, up from around 52,000 the previous year. A similar survey in 2015-16 estimated that 37,000 school-aged children were registered as home-educated.
Because there is currently no requirement for parents to register with local authorities if they elect to home-school their child, the report notes that the official figure is likely to be lower than the actual total.
The latest figures, published in the Office of the Schools Adjudicator’s (OSA) annual report and based on information provided by 152 local authorities, will fuel concerns about “off-rolling”, whereby schools remove difficult or low-achieving pupils so that they are not included in their GCSE results.
Shan Scott, the chief schools adjudicator, said more than 100 local authorities raised concerns that some parents who opted to educate their child at home will “not actually be able to provide education which fully meets the child’s needs”, echoing similar concerns aired last year.
Commenting on the report, Geoff Barton, the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “It is important to bear in mind that home education remains rare compared to the 8.8 million pupils in schools in England.
“Nevertheless, it is concerning to see that the number of children in home education has risen, because it is our view that young people are best served by attending a school.”
In a small number of cases, he said the relationship between parent and school breaks down – a situation that may be exacerbated by budget cuts and recent changes to GCSE qualifications, which have been made significantly more difficult.
Last year the government outlined proposals to introduce a register for home-educated children to enable local authorities to see where children are if they are not in school and intervene more effectively if required.
Announcing the plans, the then education secretary Damian Hinds said: “As a government, we have a duty to protect our young people and do our utmost to make sure they are prepared for life in modern Britain.
“That’s why this register of children not in school is so important – not to crack down on those dedicated parents doing an admirable job of educating their children in their own homes, but to prevent vulnerable young people from vanishing under the radar.”
Responding to the OSA report, a Department for Education spokesperson said: “We are looking into ways to make it easier for vulnerable pupils to access a school place when they need one and will use the findings of this report to ensure the school admissions system continues to help deliver good school places for even more pupils and parents.”
The OSA annual report also highlights an increase in primary schools seeking to change admissions arrangements because of falling pupil numbers, as a baby boom from the early 2000s moves from primary up to secondary level education.
It also highlights the strength of feeling surrounding admissions to grammar schools. Of the 140 objections to admissions arrangements received by the OSA in 2018-19, 58 related to the arrangements of 36 grammar schools.