More than 600 children home schooled in Shropshire
More than 600 children were home schooled in Shropshire last year, new figures have revealed.
The Association of School and College Leaders says it is concerned by a national rise in the number of home-educated children, and that young people are better off at school.
Data from the Office of the Schools Adjudicator (OSA) shows that 648 children were home schooled in Shropshire during 2018/19 – a rise of 23 on the year before.
In the Shropshire Council area the number was 332 – two down on the previous year – and in the Telford & Wrekin Council area it was up by 25, with 316 educated at home.
Across England as a whole, a 15 per cent rise over the period meant more than 60,500 children were registered as home-schooled in March last year.
The OSA, which works with the Department for Education (DfE) on school admissions, said in its annual report that the figure was likely to be higher in reality, as parents do not have to register their children as home educated.
Shan Scott, the government body’s chief adjudicator, said that more than 100 councils expressed concerns that some parents who opt for home education may not be able to meet their child’s needs.
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said it is important to bear in mind that home education remains rare across England.
“Nevertheless, it is concerning to see that the number of children in home education has risen, because it is our view that young people are best served by attending a school,” he added.
“It suggests that in a small number of cases, the relationship between the parent and school has broken down, and this may have been exacerbated by the severe pressure which currently exists on schools and pupils.
“Schools have had to make significant budget cuts, which have affected the extent of the support that they are able to provide to children with additional needs, and this may have led to unhappiness among some families.”
The LGA has also repeated its call for the Government to require parents to register their child with their local authority if they are home schooled, so that councils know where they are.
Chris Kerry, Shropshire Council’s education access service manager, said: “The responsibility for a child’s education rests with their parents, who must ensure that their child receives an efficient and suitable full-time education, based on their age, ability, aptitude and any special educational need they may have.
“Broadly speaking, education is considered efficient and suitable if it enables a child to achieve their full potential, and it prepares them for adult life in their community.
“Shropshire Council’s Elective Home Education team will offer at least one annual meeting, usually in the home, to discuss the progress being made by the child. Alternatively, parents may provide an annual report.
“However, the frequency with which the council may contact parents to discuss home education provision will vary, depending on the individual circumstances of each child and family.”
A DfE spokesman said the department was looking into ways to make it easier for vulnerable pupils to access a school place when they need one.
He added that the DfE “will use the findings of this report to ensure the school admissions system continues to help deliver good school places for even more pupils and parents”.