A recent BBC news article referred to research into the numbers of children now being home educated, rather than attending school.  It comes as no surprise that, in the last 12 months, estimates point to a 38% rise in parents choosing to educate their children at home.  This equates to over 21,000 children now receiving their education outside of a school environment!

Of course, the primary reason given by parents is the concern and risks surrounding the global pandemic, citing that they didn’t feel the school environment was safe enough amounting to a significant risk in their child contracting Covid-19.  Whilst every effort is made by schools to ensure a school is Covid secure, some parents feel they just don’t want to take the risk, electing to home educate their child.  It should be noted, however, that many parents said they would consider sending their child back to  school once the virus was under control and a vaccination programme in place.

Significantly, this year there was one other primary reason why parents chose to home educate; They felt so positive about their home schooling experience following school closures, they wanted to build on that going forward.  Clearly, this will not ring true with everyone!  I’m sure some families found home schooling difficult for all sorts of reasons, but it’s encouraging to hear that for a few this was a positive episode in their lives.

Parents have a legal right to home educate.  That’s the law.  And for many, reasons for this are often religious or ethical.  Some parents believe their cultural or moral standing just doesn’t support their child attending a school.

There have always been a large number of children who are home educated, I have taught several over the years and, on the whole, have found them and their families to be committed and hardworking, keen to learn and achieve in much the same way as school attending children.  In my experience working with different families, children who have special educational needs or specific mental health needs often struggle in a classroom full of children and do much better learning from home.  Some parents feel school just doesn’t support these children sufficiently and choosing to educate them at home is by far the best policy.  I have first hand experience of SEND students who achieve and thrive from being educated at home, often alongside support from a tutor.

It’s not possible to discuss home education without mentioning safeguarding.  This is an issue at the forefront of every school’s agenda, consistently striving to look after those children who are at risk and who are vulnerable.  This is a serious issue which a school takes on with its own dedicated safeguarding officer, staff training and regular liaison with other agencies involved in a child’s care.  If children are taken out of school for whatever reason, but including for home education, they are out of sightline of schools and children’s services.  They can easily just fall through the net.  This is worrying, especially as, currently, there isn’t a register or database which details those children out of school.  This is something being considered in Parliament as I write and I believe is vital in ensuring no children are left in a difficult home environment, just because they are not attending school.

It’s funny isn’t it? Home educating children in a pandemic – Is it now a more popular choice?   Home education wasn’t a topic particularly discussed or thought about until 2020.  Many assume that all children attend school for their education and that’s the law, but this is not so and no year, more than this one, has highlighted the need for children to have the appropriate rigorous, consistent and relevant learning for them as individuals as they travel through their childhood and out into the adult world.

Further details about the responsibilities of parents choosing to educate their children at home can be found on the DFE website.