Rise in home-educated children continues to rise in Northumberland, sparking concerns

Home education continues to rise in Northumberland. Stock picture by PixabayHome education continues to rise in Northumberland. Stock picture by Pixabay
Home education continues to rise in Northumberland. Stock picture by Pixabay
The numbers of children being educated at home continue to rise in Northumberland, figures show.

In England, education is compulsory but school is not. The responsibility rests with parents, with elective home education (EHE) being one of the options.

Northumberland County Council’s family and children’s services committee has been taking a closer look at the issue for some time, following a report early last year revealing that the numbers had reached a peak.

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The rise has continued with 261 children currently known to be home educated in Northumberland, an increase from 219 in July last year.

However, ‘it’s not a stable population’, director of education Dean Jackson said, with 162 new cases since the beginning of the academic year last September, but some 61 children returning to school places.

“There are still ongoing concerns about home education which we are doing our best to ameliorate,” he added.

The report explained that ‘there is generally good engagement with parents, and although numbers who choose to have a home visit by an education welfare officer are quite low (53 out of the 136 new families to EHE opted to have a visit this year), the requirement to submit an annual report is responded to well’.

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During the last 12 months, only six formal warnings have been issued to parents who failed to submit an annual report; three of those children returned to school and annual reports were subsequently received for the other three.

In relation to the optional home visits, Mr Jackson said: “The ball is very much in the parents’ court, we have no right of entry.”

There was also disappointment that there had been no progress with new legislation, despite hopes last year over a bill in Parliament which would have made provision for councils to monitor the educational, physical and emotional development of children receiving EHE.

However, Mr Jackson did mention one key positive in relation to concerns around what’s known as off-rolling, in which schools get rid of challenging pupils – with parents potentially being coerced to educate their children at home.