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Suffolk schools monitored over deliberate efforts to push poorly-performing children towards home education

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Suffolk County Council's headquarters at Endeavour House, Ipswich (12393184)
Suffolk County Council's headquarters at Endeavour House, Ipswich (12393184)

Education chiefs have warned that schools in Suffolk deliberately encouraging poorly-performing pupils to quit school for home education are being monitored.

It emerged that more than 800 youngsters were being taught at home in Suffolk, after data was published by Suffolk County Council earlier this month – including eight instances in one year where pupils were ‘off-rolled’.

Off-rolling is where schools encourage parents to take their child out of school and have them educated at home, so that the child does not bring down the school’s overall results.

Now, bosses have warned that those schools attempting to off-roll pupils will be found out.

“Recent data indicates that there may potentially be an issue with off- rolling and that further questions need to be posed, or guidance provided,” said councillor Chris Chambers, Conservative deputy cabinet member for education.

“We have identified schools from which there are high numbers of EHE [elective home education] and details of those schools with above average numbers have been shared with relevant officers, who will continue to monitor this.

“As per government guidance, we will also consider informing Ofsted of schools where off-rolling appears to be happening on a significant scale, so that this can be addressed at the school’s next inspection.”

Despite the confirmed cases, many instances of home schooling are because of parental preference, philosophical reasons or convenience for families in rural areas.

As part of support measures, home education consultants work with families to ensure there is sufficient support.

Mr Chambers said: “Suffolk County Council respects the right of parents to choose to electively home educate and recognise that, when this is a positive and informed choice, this works well for many families.

“However, there are a number of families electing to home educate who may not be fully aware or meet the expectations that this entails, which is a cause for concern.

“Our aim is to work collaboratively with families who electively home educate, recognising each other’s rights and responsibilities.”

Concerns had been raised that the number of home educated pupils was disproportionately affecting children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), who were unable to access the correct support because of demand in the service.

Labour education spokesman Jack Abbott said: “More parents haven’t suddenly decided to home school out of personal choice, it’s because they’ve been left with no other option.

“Overwhelmingly, this is impacting children with SEND – regular exclusions, part-time timetabling and inflexible attendance expectations are forcing parents into making impossible decisions.

“The educational and social cost to children is immense and parents are being left isolated, exhausted and desperate.

“Those in power at Suffolk County Council have been warned time and time again about what is happening, but little has changed – families don’t need platitudes and excuses, they need action.”