Covid fears prompt 38% rise in parents home educating
By Hannah Richardson
Education and social affairs reporter
1 minute ago
image copyrightPA Media
There has been a huge rise in the number of children removed from school to be home educated, with many parents saying they were driven by Covid fears.
A survey of 151 local councils by the Association of Directors of Children's Services suggests the number of home-schooled children in England rose 38%.
The ADCS estimates as many as 75,668 children were home educated on 1 October, up from 54,656 a year earlier.
Local councils said fear about Covid-19 was the top reason parents gave.
Several councils said many families had told them they were intending to send their children back to school once their concerns over the pandemic and its risks were alleviated.
Others reported that some parents said they had made the decision because they felt so positively about having their children home during the closure of regular schools between March and July.
Further analysis by the ADCS found 25% of those children and young people registered for home education on 1 October had become so since term started.
There is no official national data on the number of home educated children and estimates vary widely.
Overall, the latest official government figures suggest there were 8.89 million children registered in schools in England in 2020.
Parents have a legal right to home educate their children, instead of sending them to school. Many do this for philosophical, ethical or religious reasons.
But registering as home educated also allows abusive or neglectful parents to move their children out of sightline of children's services.
Local authorities have a duty to ensure children are receiving a suitable education, but there is no statutory register of children with Elective Home Education.
No national register
Chairwoman of the ADCS Educational Achievement Policy Committee Gail Tolley said many parents and carers had felt the need to remove their child from school due to health concerns over the pandemic.
She said: "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 child/ren.
"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."
Council leaders and heads of children's services say this would provide greater oversight of this growing trend. They also want resources to cover their responsibilities in this area.
The government is yet to publish its response to the consultation, but existing guidance is due to be renewed by December.
A DfE spokesman said it was a national priority to keep schools open and any parents who were still concerned should engage with their school.
And he pointed out that local authorities already have powers to request that home educating parents demonstrate that the education they are providing is sufficient and appropriate. The DfE has also published a blog setting out the responsibilities of parents educating their own children.
The Commons Education Committee is holding a session on home education on Tuesday as part of its inquiry into the issue.
It will also be examining the impact of Covid-19 on elective home education.
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