Half of children taught at home don’t get a suitable education

Sheffield Town Hall
Sheffield Town Hall
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More and more children are being educated at home – but only half of them are getting proper tuition from mum and dad.

There are currently 513 Sheffield kids learning with parents and over the past 10 years, the number has increased annually both locally and nationally.

Over the past five years the number of children registered with the council’s Elective Home Education Service (EHES) has shot up by 77 per cent but officers say there’s no specific reasons why.

But during the last academic year, only half of the children were receiving a suitable education. Alena Prentice, assistant director of Inclusion and Learning Services at Sheffield Council, says in a report to the Children's Scrutiny Committee: "During the last academic year, just over 50 per cent of children were receiving a suitable education."

The council has advisors but parents don’t have to meet them or provide access to their children or their work. There are no basic requirements or specific standards parents must follow. Children don’t have to take exams and if they do, the council doesn’t have access to their results.

A further report by Venetta Buchanan of EHES, says: “The advisor is responsible for ensuring parents are fulfilling their statutory duty to provide a suitable and efficient education.

“Due to current statutory restrictions there is no formal framework for the ongoing monitoring of children educated at home, however a system of parental support has been developed.

“All parents have access to the advisor who carries out home visits to assist with the creation and development of educational plans. A programme of drop in sessions has been established.”

The council does ask parents for written information about their children’s education and if it’s not suitable, they will meet parents.

Ms Buchanan added: “If, through continued monitoring, it was found that the education was still not suitable, and when all efforts had been exhausted, families were referred to the Multi-Agency Support Team for a school attendance order. If it was found that the problems continued, they could be taken to court for a breach of the order.”

The main reason for home education was parents’ dissatisfaction with their school and their children’s needs not being met. Other reasons included religion, preferred school being unavailable or racism, homophobia and bullying. Only a very small number of the children have been permanently excluded from school.

Ms Buchanan adds: “The fact that a significant number of students return to mainstream schooling within six months indicates that home education is not always chosen for the right reasons and the authority must continue to provide challenge and support to parents.

“The reasons behind parents electing to educate at home are complex. There is a significant population that has a philosophical commitment to home education and provide a suitable education for their children.

“There are other parents who might feel that home education is their only alternative where they have become disaffected with the school system. Sometimes, parents choose to home educate but realise quickly that they cannot provide a suitable education.”