'Coronavirus fears' contribute to rise in Leeds children being home schooled - council report
Fear among parents about the coronavirus pandemic has been identified as one of the factors behind an increase in children being home schooled in Leeds.
A report prepared by Leeds City Council officers suggests more than 300 additional children and young people had registered to be electively home educated – or home schooled – by the end of the last school year.
It quoted figures showing the numbers had risen from 599 in 2019 to 907 by the end of the 2020/21 academic year in July.
The paper added that this has largely been driven by unusually high increases in parents choosing to home educate younger primary-age children during the pandemic.
The numbers will feed into an ongoing inquiry into the practice of off-rolling and elective home education in the city.
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), so their exam results wouldn’t appear on school records.
Council officers, however, believe much of the increase during the pandemic was driven by anxieties related to the pandemic.
The report, due to be considered by councillors next week, states: “In the Autumn term of 20/21 academic year there were 377 new notifications to the EHE team. The reason given for becoming EHE was predominantly Covid related with 114 of all reasons provided as Covid.
“Eighty four parents preferred not to give a reason for their decision. Fifty nine had a belief in EHE and 33 identified stress and anxiety as a reason.”
It adds that of the 95 new EHE notifications during the Spring term, 21 parents would identify Covid as a reason.
“As outlined above, the reasons for parents choosing to home educate have changed over the last year,” the report says. “A third of all new notifications received in 2020/21 are recorded as ‘prefer not to say/unknown’, followed by 22 per cent stating ‘Covid-19’.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the number of children who have become electively home educated. During the Autumn term 2020/21, there was a fear amongst parents about the virus. However, during this period the quality of the education plans that were being returned was of a higher quality, more detailed and focused.
“It is evident that stress and anxiety were a feature for children and young people, and this was probably perpetuated by the global pandemic and the lack of surety about the future. Parents wanted to keep their children close and safe from the unknowns of the virus.”
It also claims an unusual number of parents decided not to state a reason for taking their children out of mainstream school settings, adding: “We have noted again this year that many children had previous low attendance at school, and some are below expected levels of attainment for their years.
“Further analysis is being undertaken as caseworkers contact the families following the usual protocols.”
The paper will be discussed by the council's children and families scrutiny board on Wednesday November 3.
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