‘Nobody knows exactly how many children are being educated at home because many parents are under no obligation to tell the authorities. But freedom of information responses provided to Education Guardian indicate numbers are rising. Responses from 134 of England’s 153 local education authorities list 30,298 children as receiving home education in 2014-15. Of these, 13,007 are of primary age, and 17,291 of them are between 11 and 16.
Among 103 authorities that provided data back to 2011-12, the number of primary–age children recorded as home educated rose by 60% in the three academic years to 2014-15. In the secondary phase, the increase was 37%.
In some of England’s largest local authority areas, hundreds of young people are being home educated: Kent listed 1,285 children; Essex, 1,234; Norfolk, 1,052; and Lancashire, 918. About 85% of local authorities documented a rise in home education over those three years, with 27 authorities reporting a doubling of numbers.
Pinning down reasons for the rise is tricky. Eleanor Reardon, who set up a legal advocacy service for home educators three years ago, says parents have various motivations. “They tell us: ‘I cannot get my child into a school locally. The local authority has said I have to send them however many miles away, so I am considering home education.’ Or ‘My child has been sick’, or ‘My child has special needs, but the school is threatening to fine me or take me to court because he’s not been in school.’”
And, more recently, “There has also been a huge rise in special educational needs cases which are not being catered for,” she says.
Reardon and other home education experts say part of the rise may not relate to schools. The Education and Inspections Act 2006 introduced a requirement for local authorities to identify children not receiving school education. This is likely to have triggered more systematic record-keeping. - Guardian