More families are making the decision to educate at home

After a long and difficult struggle involving many thought-provoking discussions, the parents of a child at a Sheffield school decided to withdraw them from lessons.

Wednesday, 18th September 2019, 11:48 am
Updated Thursday, 17th October 2019, 3:14 pm
Home schooling is becoming more popular
Home schooling is becoming more popular

From the school’s perspective, the child was being a disruptive influence on other members of the class and in some cases a risk to staff involved.

The parents argued the school, with limited funding, was not able to put appropriate resources in place and as a result the needs of the child were not being met.

Despite complaints and meetings over more than a year, the senior leadership team were unable to provide what the parents wanted and unable to reduce the impact on other areas of the school community. For everybody involved, it was an emotional and draining time and there are many people wishing it had turned out differently, not least some of the child’s friends in school. And, of course, the child themselves. Nobody can be certain about what will follow for this young person and their family now, but it’s likely that there will be a lengthy time out of formal education as they struggle to get a placement at a school able to meet the pupil’s needs.

It’s a troubling period experienced by too many families, and a reminder that Sheffield is still struggling to cope with the rising demand for special needs school places. The city is by no means alone in this regard as increasing demand and crippling cuts forge a double-edged sword.

But the result is a worrying rise of children being home schooled that wouldn’t have been if the state system had managed to meet their requirements.

More and more families are making the decision to educate at home through necessity because they feel they have no other choice.

There are even stories I’ve heard some parents tell about pressure being put on them to take their children out of schools that cannot cope. None of this is ever written down as an official reason, of course, but the anecdotal suggestion that some headteachers are putting pressure on families to home-school their children is a shocking one.

Families who feel forced to take the path of home schooling when they don’t really want to find the route paved with difficulties and challenges. Fortunately, there is a period of time when home-schooling families are able to change their mind.

If it’s not working out, the child can be accepted back into school within 12-week period – and some do take the school up on this safety net offer. Those who go it alone enter a largely unregulated type of education where a lot of great work is done that benefits children – but there’s also a great deal of terrible home schooling as well.

The problem is that it’s so difficult to monitor the standard of home education because there’s no requirement from central government for any particular curriculum to be followed or any testing to take place. Such procedures would go against the entire ethos of home schooling. The concern we should be addressing is how some children are finding themselves forced out of the education system because their needs are not being met, but also how the lack of support for these home schooled children means they are academically abandoned.

There are home schooled children who thrive on what they get delivered, but there are also those spotted wandering about in the daytime, eating lunch in the park and seemingly getting little input. Little support is offered to those who are home schooled in terms of teaching resources, and they are not entitled to any state money.

If home schooling is a positive choice being made by parents determined to provide a broad and varied education, then this can work brilliantly.

But there is a small, increasing, number of children pushed into home schooling when it is not their priority and whose parents find it difficult to cope. These families are being failed and the government needs to up its game in looking after them.