Home education rise leaving children’s services ‘stretched’, ADCS warns

Fiona Simpson
Monday, November 23, 2020

The number of children being electively home educated has jumped by more than a third compared with last year due to health fears sparked by the Covid-19 pandemic, new figures from the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) shows.

Home education figures have jumped by 38 per cent compared with last year. Picture: Adobe Stock
Home education figures have jumped by 38 per cent compared with last year. Picture: Adobe Stock

The increase in the number of children now registered as part of the EHE cohort has left local authority children’s services “stretched”, the ADCS has warned.

According to its elective home education (EHE) survey 2020, some 75,668 children were being taught at home on 1 October, 38 per cent more than on the same date last year.

Of these, 25 per cent had been registered as being home educated since 1 September.

Approximately nine per cent of children and young people being home educated are known to local authority children’s social care, the survey finds, and 14 per cent are known to wider children’s services.

Meanwhile, an estimated 86,335 children and young people were known to be electively home educated at any point during the previous academic year, a 10 per cent increase from the 2018/19 academic year. 

The most common reason cited by parents or carers for electing to home educate their child was due to health concerns related directly to Covid-19, the report states.

“Some parents or carers noted that their positive experience of educating their child at home during the partial school closures was a contributory factor”, the report adds, noting that a number of local authorities which responded to the survey said “many families intend on enrolling their child/ren back in school once their concerns over the virus are alleviated.”

However, Gail Tolley, chair of the ADCS educational achievement policy committee, warned that local authorities were struggling to deal with the jump in the number of children being home educated.

“The pandemic and partial closure of schools has clearly had an impact on the number of families electing to home educate their child/ren once schools fully re-opened. Local authorities have a duty to ensure that these children are safe and receiving a good education, yet with the significant increase in the number of EHE children and young people since September, our capacity to maintain contact with all of them is severely stretched,” she said.

“Many parents or carers have felt the need to remove their child from school due to health concerns over the pandemic and we want to be able to support these families to make sure they are making an informed decision and are equipped to offer a good and broad education to their children. However, without a statutory register it is impossible to know of every child or young person who is being electively home educated. 

“Schools play an important role in safeguarding as they provide a direct line of sight to the child. If a child is taken out of school, it is vital we know that they are in a safe environment and that their needs are being met,” Tolley added.

“We still await the outcome of the Department for Education’s consultation that proposed new duties on local authorities including a national register of all EHE children and young people. If implemented, this must be fully funded so that we have the means to provide the support these children and young people deserve.”

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