Sheffield Council keeping close eye on QAnon conspiracy theory
Sheffield Council is keeping a close eye on whether a conspiracy theory is contributing to a big increase in the number of parents choosing to de-register their children from school.
The number of people requesting de-registration from school for their children so they can home educate has risen from 462 to 659 in the past year, the biggest single increase the council has ever seen.
It was discussed in a recent meeting of the council’s children and family support scrutiny committee.
Councillor Jim Steinke raised concern about unfounded QAnon conspiracy theories that falsely claim there is a cabal of elite Satan-worshipping paedophiles in government, business and the media.
He said: “I raised earlier in the year a particular concern I’ve got about QAnon and related conspiracy theories about parents who weren’t sending their kids to school because of that.
“Are there any concerns about people not sending their kids to school because of conspiracy theories? How would that be picked up? Because I have got some concerns.”
Andrew Jones director of education and skills, said: “When councillor Steinke raised it with us we made a concerted effort to check and double check the reasons that had been given for parents opting to home educate their children.
“As well as looking at the reasons, we also put our ears to the ground in terms of picking up, particularly in relation to the QAnon conspiracy, and we weren’t able to find any direct connection.
“The trouble is if you engage in a conspiracy you are not likely to say ‘I’m keeping my child at home because of a conspiracy’.
“Having been raised we are now very acutely aware of that and we are certainly looking for signs of any odd rationale in terms of keeping children at home. We are still not aware of that but it doesn’t mean it isn’t occurring.”
Rosemary Ward, interim head of access and inclusion, said the main reasons parents gave for de-registering their children from school pre-Covid-19 were anxiety and lack of disability provision.
Now, Covid-19 and anxiety are the most common reasons given but there is still a high number of parents who do not explain why.