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MISCONCEPTION: Home schooling ‘doesn’t mean your child’s exams are still free’

MISCONCEPTION: Home schooling ‘doesn’t mean your child’s exams are still free’

The number of children and young people in Leeds classed as electively home educated shot up by 47 per cent between 2020 and 2021

Some parents have a “misconception” that choosing to home educate their children means they will be given money by the Government, a Leeds City Council meeting has heard.

The comments came during an inquiry into elective home education, which also heard that the numbers of children being taken out of school had risen by nearly 50 per cent during the Covid-19 pandemic.

A senior council officer suggested there was a need to clear up some “misconceptions” for parents who may want to take their children out of school.

The meeting was told that much of the increase in the numbers of parents home educating their children was due to anxieties around the Covid-19 pandemic.

Val Waite, the council’s head of learning inclusion, added: “At this point in time, there is no duty for any children who are electively home educated to take any exams at all. We do direct [parents], we give lots of information in where they could take exams and what courses they could take.

“Parents do have to pay for the exams themselves, because they have made the choice to take their children out of education.

“We do find there is a misconception among parents who are electively home educating and a thought that they would receive the money that would have educated them in school, and that exams would be paid for.

“For a lot of parents, it is a philosophical, ideological choice and the financial aspects are not a part of it.

“For other families that is sometimes a really good conversation to have, when they understand the overall impact of that choice and the responsibilities, if they are in a position where they feel it was not a choice they were making, and they felt pushed into accepting elective home education.”

GCSE exams have to be arranged privately by parents or carers of home-schooled children. Individual exams can range from anywhere between £30 and £200 each.

Speaking earlier in the meeting, Ms Waite said: “The overall picture, as we have gone through Covid, shows the number of people who have been electively home educated has shot up massively. It has continued to rise throughout the pandemic.”

Between 2020 and 2021, the number of children and young people in Leeds classed as electively home educated shot up by 47 per cent.

In the first term of the 2020/21 school year, the council received 651 new notifications from parents wanting to home educate their children, compared to 377 for the whole year in 2019/20.

Concerns had previously been expressed by politicians and education experts that some parents may have been pressured by schools into registering underachieving pupils as electively home-educated (EHE).

The report into the issue by Leeds City Council officers, however, claimed much of the increase during the pandemic was driven by anxieties related to the pandemic.

Panel member Coun Ryan Stephenson (Con) told the meeting: “If the fear is that some people are being forced to home educate, that that would come up in the data, because anyone who works in schools will tell you that, typically, families who choose to leave for one reason or another, don’t just do it out of the blue.

“There is a history of complaints and the processes you go through, so it doesn’t come as a surprise. Perhaps we ought to be asking that question.”

Coun Sandy Lay (Lib Dem) said: “This makes me feel uneasy about what we don’t know about elective, if I can use that word. I sometimes wonder that perhaps a lot of it isn’t elective and it is parents whose hands are forced.

“There are philosophical reasons for many parents. But I worry how many people are truly electively doing it or whether the system fails them.

“I worry about off-rolling. I feel perhaps a piece of research needs to be done so we can find out how many are being off-rolled, so we are not second-guessing or using anecdotal evidence.

“We can find out surely by asking the parents of those children.”

The inquiry will continue into 2022.

 

Words: Richard Beecham, Local Democracy Reporter


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