‘Traveller culture, philosophy and dissatisfaction with school’ main reasons for rising number of Doncaster children being home schooled

Monitoring the rising numbers of children being home schooled in Doncaster is becoming ‘increasingly challenging’, council education bosses have said.

By George Torr, Local Democracy Reporter
Friday, 09 August, 2019, 11:28
There are over 600 children who are home schooled in Doncaster

Councillors heard officers intervene to return around 40 to 60 children to school each year but officers ‘don’t have a statutory responsibility’ to check on parents or to make them comply.

Officers told a meeting at Civic Office the most common reasons given for rising number of home schooling in Doncaster are ‘traveller culture, philosophy and dissatisfaction with school’.

The meeting was told there was now a ‘national movement’ to ensure there is greater accountability and enhance powers given to councils to monitor home school education.

Nationally, there was a 11 per cent rise in children being taught at home which was described as a ‘national crisis’ by Conisbrough Labour councillor Lani-Mae Ball.

Latest figures show 634 young people are educated at home in Doncaster. The ‘vast majority’ of these are in the secondary sector.

Around 15 per cent are from the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller community.

Labour councillor Frank Tyas, who represents Armthorpe said: “The home schooling figures are going up and you’ve obviously got limited resources to cover this. How are you managing to cover the area and keep check on the children getting the correct education?”

Coun Tyas also asked if the numbers of those home schooled increased in more deprived areas of Doncaster.

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Martyn Owen, head of education inclusion at Doncaster Council, said: “You need to manage your resources by identifying your priorities – so what we do is we target those staff towards children who are vulnerable and we regularly profile and review this cohort.

“In terms of new cases that we see, officers try and get out in the first five to 10 days to get a feel of what’s actually happening in the home so it is challenging.

“There are some councils who don’t even provide any staffing towards this because the formal role doesn’t exist but as the numbers go up it is increasingly getting harder.”

On the issue of whether figures increase for more deprived areas, Mr Owen said: “It is more focused in some areas than others – there is a relative relationship but there are also others factors at play as well such as the size of the school in that area or the school ethos.

“Where there are vulnerable groups in the borough whilst not just deprived groups, there are cultural reasons as to why there may be a higher likelihood they are educated at home.”

Head of children’s services, Riana Nelson, added: “We now have a way or working where we are trying to be more proactive in identifying children earlier than being reactive.

“We’re trying to get in early with schools to have conversations and speaking to families around how they’re going about this.

“It is a very difficult issue compounded by lots of different levels of interaction with schools and parents, choice and legislation.”