Concerns that parents are pressured into educating children at home
Councillors are concerned that parents are home educating their disabled children because schools are not providing enough support.
A number of councillors on the children and young people’s scrutiny board said they had heard of parents who felt pressured into home schooling because their children couldn’t get special needs support at school.
Council chiefs say they will challenge any school which does this because home schooling had to be the parent’s choice.
The number of children being educated at home has increased in the past five to 10 years both nationally and in Sheffield, with growing numbers of children registered for short periods of time only. There was an overall increase from 268 in 2013 to 539 in 2018.
Joel Hardwick, head of commissioning: inclusion and schools, told a scrutiny meeting: “There has been an overall increase in the number of children electing to have home education. Linked to that rise is children with additional needs.
“We need to ensure we have a school system that can support children with a variety of needs, even if they have complex additional needs they should be able to access education.
“We really want to talk to families about the reason for home schooling. There are hints about pressure on parents to home school and suggestions that it has taken place and I have picked up on this. We do have a clear policy in place about challenging schools.
“It’s about making sure we have conversations with families to ensure we know what they need. It comes down to getting the real story around the issues – whether there’s a breakdown between the school and parents or whether children’s needs are not being met.
“It’s not straightforward that schools are putting pressure on parents. We need to get to a point where schools don’t even think about this and try to unpick the issues which led to this in the first place to see how any breakdown happened.”
Families who home school also get a visit from the council now to check on the child’s welfare.
Mr Hardwick added: “In Sheffield we have looked at the provision and support families around the education element but there are separate processes looking at the safeguarding checks.
“It’s important we had a real focus on safeguarding so we now teams who ensure any children who are moving into home education has that visit and check. It’s ensuring moving into home education has been taken for the right reason.”