Hundreds more children are being home-schooled in Suffolk since the start of school term, new data shows
Hundreds more youngsters are being educated at home in Suffolk since the start of the school term, according to new figures.
Data published by Suffolk County Council last month found there were 257 extra pupils being home-educated as of September 25, while figures last week were at around 1,500 known cases of home education – up 500 on the 1,000 prior to the first Covid-19 lockdown in March.
That represents 1.4 per cent of the county’s school-age population being taught at home.
County council education leaders said it was a highly fluid situation with Suffolk reflecting the national picture, but urged parents who were considering it to make sure they were aware of all the implications and necessities needed to teach children at home.
Councillor Mary Evans, cabinet member for education, said: “Parents and carers have the choice of where their child is educated, whether this be in a state-funded school, an independent school or through elective home education.
“We set out to provide information for parents considering home education to assist them making an informed choice, we also signpost resources and groups that might assist home educating parents.
“It is important that parents choosing to electively home educate their children fully understand what is involved and the financial implications of this choice.
“During Covid-19 there has been a national increase in parents and carers considering home education and this was reflected in Suffolk.
“We have however seen the numbers of enquiries from parents and carers about home education lower over the past few weeks. This may be linked to increased confidence of parents and carers following the incredible work of school and setting leaders across Suffolk to make their schools safe.”
However, Mrs Evans warned: “Parents who take their child out of school, opting to home educate, may not get their child back into the same school if they later change their mind.”
The Covid-19 situation has been instrumental in the increase, although that is for a variety of reasons.
Some have opted for home education because of anxieties around safety or the need for vulnerable family members to shield, while some found home schooling their children during the first lockdown to be better for their lifestyle.
Among the considerations families must make are the financial burden, needing to register pupils for exams and assessments, resources and the curriculum to be taught.
But calls have been made for each new case to be investigated amid fears that some parents may have felt there was no other option.
Councillor Jack Abbott, Suffolk County Council’s opposition Labour group spokesman for education, said: “Even before the pandemic we were seeing a sharp rise in the number of children in Suffolk being educated at home. In some of these cases, there were clearly concerns around children being ‘off-rolled’, either because of inadequate special educational needs and disabilities [SEND] support or because of attendance, behavioural and attainment challenges.
“While home educating is the right choice for some children and their families, there are far too many stories of parents being forced to homeschool their children after feeling like they’ve got no other choice. It is disturbing that, during a pandemic that has already robbed a generation of months of schooling, more children could be left facing this injustice.
“I hope that increased SEND places being offered this year will go some way towards alleviating the problem, but for many children this will come too late. Suffolk County Council must urgently investigate every new case of elective home education to ensure that the decision was made in the best interests of the child and their family.”