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Education: Home Schooling Increases by 75%

Jenny Donath reports on new research which shows that home education is becoming more and more popular.

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto

More and more parents have taken their children electively out of school and have decided on home schooling as an alternative approach to education. According to BBC’s research across 153 out of 205 councils in Great Britain and Northern Ireland, there has been a 75.6% increase in home schooling within the first eight months of the 2020-2021 academic year.

In north-west England, there has been a rise as high as 92%. In total, 40,000 pupils have been taken out of school during that time; this is a drastic change compared to the 23,000 pupils in the two previous years.

Reasons for Home Education

There are various reasons why parents might choose home education for their children. Some of those could be religious, ideological or philosophical viewpoints, dissatisfaction with the school system, or bullying of the child in a school setting.

Varying educational needs and physical and mental health reasons are also playing a big factor. For instance, parents of children with asthma or an autism diagnosis figured that home-education might be more suitable, as there had been difficulties with providing special needs support at school. A father living near Hull took all his children out of school in March 2020 as one of his children has autism. He claimed:

“I think we had reached the limit of what we could do in the structure. [...] From the experience we are having, I’d be hard pressed to think about going back.”

Several children who have electively been taken out of school seem to be thriving in the safety of their own homes and feel better supported and more comfortable in the new learning environment. However, other parents warned that there are also downsides to home-education.

Victoria, a mother of an 11-year-girl in Peterborough, warned that parents should carefully think about whether it is the correct choice for their children. She took her daughter out of school due to the school’s unwillingness and inability to accommodate to her daughter’s ADHD and Asperger syndrome. She said, “It’s not easy. You’re talking about being with your child 24/7. Other than groups she goes to and the tutoring she has. The rest of it is down to the parent — it’s up to you to organise all that and to pay for it. You have to know what you’re taking on.”

The Department of Education

The Department of Education have shown concerns about the rise in numbers and whether educational approaches at home were appropriate. A registration system has been suggested to means of keeping track of home educated children by checking up on them at least once a year and by providing guidelines and accessible online tools to support the education at home.

“We can only support children’s education and safeguard the children who are known to us,”

said Gail Tolley, the chair of the ACDS educational achievement policy committee. However, parents are currently not obligated to register their child.

The Department of Education have emphasised that the move to home education should be carefully evaluated:

“Although many parents provide a good standard of education, home education is never a decision that should be entered lightly. Now more than ever, it is absolutely vital that any decision to home-educate is made with the child’s interests at the forefront of parent’s minds.”

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders' union NAHT, has observed that home schooling increased following the Covid-19 pandemic. He believes that many parents feared that schools would not provide a safe place for students despite the decision of the Department of Education to introduce regular Covid testing and putting students into bubbles.

“Many appear to have chosen home education because they have lost faith in the government’s approach to school safety during the pandemic” – Paul Whiteman

While several regions had seen a rise of at least 50% in home education, five areas have especially stood out: Hounslow, which has seen the biggest rise of home schooled children, followed by Barnet, Nottingham, Blackburn-with Darwen, and Warrington. In those areas, almost five times as many students had been taken out of school compared to the previous academic years.

Home Education During the Pandemic

During the Covid-19 pandemic, an Opinion and Lifestyle Survey was undertaken to analyse parent’s and pupils’ experiences with home education (between the ages of 5-18). The survey assessed that a home-schooled pupil’s learning ability, their focus on their schoolwork at home, and usage of provided resources have been dependent on age and occasionally whether one or two parents were part of the household. For instance, the older the child was, the more time they spent studying or referred to interactive online learning resources as a beneficial way to educate themselves. Children between 16 and 18 years old were also more concerned whether home-schooling negatively affected their future life plans.

The survey looked at two different times frames, the first month of the first lockdown from beginning of April to 6 May, and from 7 May until 7 June 2020. Since most parents were forced into home-schooling due to the imposed lockdown guidelines, only 49% felt strongly or somewhat confident in their home-schooling abilities. 34% of women and 20% of men claimed that home schooling was negatively affecting their wellbeing; 43% of parents agreed that it negatively affected their children’s wellbeing.

Furthermore, 52% of parents said that a child in their household was struggling to continue their schoolwork effectively at home; 77% of those stated that their children mainly struggled with their education because they were lacking motivation. Lack of guidance and support was another reason for their struggle, with the number as high as 43%.

Nevertheless, although many parents were put into that situation because of the pandemic, more and more parents see advantages in opting for home education. Paul Whiteman has called on the government to “find out the reasons behind so many more families choosing home education.”

It is more important now than ever to ensure that those families have all the support they need; and to promote and foster constructive discussions about how the government might restore the faith many parents have lost in the school system. Similar: Child Development: The Impact of the Pandemic


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