Homeschooling: Number of people homeschooling their children in Wakefield more than doubles in five years as hundreds opt out of school system

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The number of parents choosing to home educate their children across the Wakefield district is rising sharply, figures show.

Wakefield Council has seen the number of elective home education (EFE) cases more than double during the past five years.

A meeting heard the figures are in line with a national trend for more parents to homeschool youngsters since the pandemic.

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Department of Education data for autumn 2023 estimates there were 92,000 EFE cases nationally.

The figures rose after the pandemicThe figures rose after the pandemic
The figures rose after the pandemic

In Wakefield, the local authority dealt with 588 EFE referrals in the 2022/23 academic year.

The number of cases during the current 2023/24 period had already reached 789 by the end of February.

Of those cases, the most common reason (76 cases) given for a new EFE referral was “anxiety”.

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Other listed reasons include “moving school/school dispute” (41 cases), “behaviour” (10 cases) and “bullying” (12 cases).

The number of Wakefield children being educated at home in the 2019/2020 year was 317.

The figures indicate that the homeschooling experienced by parents during lockdowns prompted many to opt out of the school system permanently.

Education officers told the council’s children and young people scrutiny committee how the authority is now dedicating more resources to supporting youngsters being educated at home.

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Committee members also agreed to set up a working group to discover more about the rising trend.

Claire Hammerson, the council’s education welfare service manager, said the number of staff supporting parents and children has increased.

Parents can choose to provide their child’s education outside of the school system under the Education Act 1996.

They are then wholly responsible for the approach, structure, content and cost of all education provision to ensure they provide a “suitable and efficient” education.

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However, there is no legal definition of “suitable” education and no official definition of how many hours per day a full-time education takes.

Local authorities have a duty to enquire about a child’s education at least once a year if they are of compulsory school age.

The officer said the authority now works more closely with educational psychologists to get a better understanding of anxiety cases.

She said: “In some cases is may be the parents own anxiety. We need to be clear about what we mean by anxiety.”

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Ms Hammerson said the number of referrals involving children with special educational needs had remained stable over the five-year period.

Voluntary and community sector representative Chris Bingham said : “Home-schooling should be a last option and not something that should be taken lightly.

“I think we need more data because this is becoming a huge issue.”

Councillor Josie Pritchard told the meeting: “My concern is that schools really aren’t on board.

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“There are lots of parents who have children who are going through emotionally-based school avoidance and anxiety.

“For a lot of them it is just sheer frustration.

“They are taking them out of school because they can’t cope with it every morning.

“That impacts on the children because they are not then socialising with their peers and they become more and more isolated.

“We do know that certain schools don’t want certain children in because it is going to lower their ratings when it comes to GCSE time.

“My concern is that the pressure some of the schools put on the parents is immense.”