Suffolk parents move to home-schooling after coronavirus pandemic, Suffolk County Council figures show
Scores of families have opted to switch to home educating their children during the Covid-19 pandemic in Suffolk, new data has revealed, as more than 250 additional pupils are studying at home compared to pre-pandemic levels.
But education leaders at Suffolk County Council say they expect some families will choose to send their children back to school before Christmas, as the return of schools from the Covid-19 restrictions begins.
Latest county council figures indicate that there are 1,356 pupils in Suffolk being electively home educated - those where the parent or parents have chosen to do so - as of August 27 this year.
That compares to the 1,093 registered in September 2019 prior to Covid-19 - 263 more than two years ago.
Education bosses believe the pandemic has been a key factor, as some parents found educating at home during the lockdowns much better for their routine, or because of fears about kids returning to classrooms while the virus is still in circulation.
The numbers will be monitored to see whether any of those opt to return to the classroom this term once classes resume with fewer Covid-19 restrictions.
Adrian Orr, assistant director for education and learning, said: "We did see the number of children whose parents had decided to electively home educate went up - not just in Suffolk, they went up nationally.
"We think that was based upon parental fears about the virus - particularly if there was a family member who was clinically vulnerable.
"Another thing we will be looking at and monitoring in the autumn term, is do we see some of those families coming back to us and saying actually do we want a school place back, which will present a few challenges but be a good thing in my view.
"If you are home educating you have got to be committed to it - home educating because you don’t want your child in school because of a virus isn’t the best reason."
It has been acknowledged that the change in working patterns for some people to allow for more home working will mean that home educating has become more of an option for them too.
But the council has urged parents to ensure they take their time to carefully consider before making the switch.
It has also been warned that if parents wish to send their child back to school after a period of home educating, it may not always be possible to return the child to their first preference school - particularly if it is an oversubscribed or popular school with families.
National data for earlier this year indicated it was a trend seen across the country, as 40,000 pupils were taken out of schools between September last year and April this year, compared to an average of 23,000 pupils for the same period in the two years prior.
It has meant the Department for Education is planning a register of home educating children to ensure families are supported.
While Covid-19 is largely considered to be behind the spike both nationally and in Suffolk, other reasons parents home educate can be for their own beliefs, where children struggle around others, or because they feel they cannot get the support for a child with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) in schools.