Concerns raised over increasing numbers of children being home-schooled in Suffolk
More than 800 children in Suffolk are being taught at home, according to new figures – including eight confirmed cases in one year of schools pressurising parents to home educate so as not to affect results.
Latest data published by Suffolk County Council showed 828 pupils were taught at home as of January this year, with a 52 per cent increase in the numbers being home schooled between 2014 and 2017 – above the 40 per cent national average increase.
The data showed there were eight cases in 2017/18 where pupils were ‘off-rolled’, where schools encourage parents to take their child out of school because they are disruptive or bring down a school’s overall results.
A report prepared for next week’s council scrutiny committee said: “There has been national and local concern about some children who are being electively educated at home, because they have been withdrawn from school due to dissatisfaction or conflict, or because their parents are unable to obtain a place at a school that meets their needs.
“There is also evidence of parents being illegally pressurised by some schools into voluntarily removing their children to educate them at home, a practice known as off-rolling.
“Children, in these situations, may not be receiving a satisfactory education and are more likely to be exposed to undetected safeguarding risks.”
Concerns have been raised over the impact a lack of appropriate special educational needs placements has had.
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. This is off-rolling, plain and simple.
“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.”
A county council spokesman said reasons could include bullying, cultural reasons or schools not meeting a child’s needs.
“It has become apparent that, in some cases, parents have been encouraged by schools to elect to home educate with no real understanding of how much responsibility this decision brings,” the spokesman said.
“Where the council is made aware that this has happened, we have intervened.
“In the case of maintained schools, that has been directly with the school. With academies, this has been with the trust and with the regional school commissioner.”
More by this authorJason Noble, Local Democracy Reporter