Council calls for action over concerns about home educated young people
Issue Date: 31 May 2018
Council calls for action over its growing concerns over rising numbers of students being withdrawn from school
Nottinghamshire’s chairman for children and young people’s services has written to the Secretary of State for Education outlining the County Council’s serious concerns over the increasing numbers of children and young people being withdrawn from mainstream education to be home educated
In his letter to Damian Hinds MP sent this week, Councillor Philip Owen has also pressed the minister for the urgent mandatory registration of all home educated pupils.
Worryingly, the number of parents across Nottinghamshire – and indeed nationally – who have always elected to home educate and have never enrolled their child/children on the school roll is unknown because there is no requirement for parents to register these children with the local authority.
Coun Owen said: “There has been an alarming rise in the numbers - in September 2017, 523 children in the county were registered as home educated, but as Year 11 students get set to leave school, this figure has risen to 714, with total numbers more than doubling in under four years.
“And whilst the council is formally contributing to the Department for Education’s consultation on elective home education (EHE), these processes take time to inform national policy which is why I am asking Mr Hinds to urgently address this situation, particularly across academies, where there has been a relentless increase in secondary-aged pupils becoming home educated.
“It appears to be far too easy for academies to advise parents to home educate children and young people whose needs should quite clearly be met in publicly funded academies.”
Also calling on the minister to consider compulsory registration of home educated students, Coun Owen said: “It concerns us greatly that those parents who have always elected to home educate and have never enrolled their child/children on the school roll are unknown to us, thereby potentially going under our radar because of the lack of statutory regulation in this area.”
All but one of the county’s 44 mainstream secondary schools are academies.
“In the majority of cases, where parents and carers choose to school their child at home, known as elective home education – the education is suitable and the children and young people are safe,” continued Coun Owen. “There are, however, a small, but growing number of cases where we consider this not to be the case and/or there is a potential safeguarding risk.”
In terms of safeguarding, the council has identified a significant number of pupils over the last two years who have been withdrawn from school for a range of inappropriate reasons which include persistent low attendance, unresolved bullying, and social, emotional, mental health or special educational needs which are not met.
“Clearly this situation is not acceptable. I think parents will be horrified at the lack of regulation,” said Coun Owen. “Where we are aware that children have become home educated for inappropriate reasons, we do everything in our power to ensure they are readmitted to the school they previously attended.
“There is also some evidence that secondary academies encourage or persuade parents unlawfully to remove a child to home educate. We challenge these so-called ‘grey’ exclusions whenever we become aware, and in these circumstances, we would intervene directly with academies to make sure that such children are not lawfully removed from the roll and that the students are taken back into school.”
A large proportion of secondary aged home educated students will not return to school if they are withdrawn after the age of 12. Currently, 472 pupils of the 714 EHE children that the council knows about are of secondary age. And 314 of these students are 13 to 16 years old.
Coun Owen added: “If the numbers of home educated children and young people continue to grow exponentially, we will need additional resources to monitor the suitability of education and to fulfil our statutory duty.”