Parents in Leeds could be feeling “pressured” by schools into home-educating their children.
That’s according to a report by Leeds City Council officers, which adds that the number of children estimated to be home-schooled in Leeds has risen over the past two years.
Data released by Leeds City Council shows 512 pupils receiving Elective Home Education (EHE) at the end of the 2016/17 academic year, while a total of 610 were listed at the end of the 2018/19 academic year.
It added that, despite many parents having sincere beliefs about home education, it was more likely that those who take older children out of school could be doing so for other reasons.
The report by officers at Leeds City Council stated: “While it is understood that there are a range of reasons that lead to a parent to choose to home educate and that many parents have a deep philosophical reason or specific reason for this choice, taking this action in late KS3 and KS4 seems more likely to be due to pressure from school or avoidance of further exclusion, attendance processes or medical reasons.
“In the last year the EHE team have reported an increase in EHE notifications where the child has free school meal eligibility and also collated information that more have had previous social care interventions.
“Work to look into this further with social care colleagues is underway.”
The report stated that one of the fastest growing groups in Leeds EHE was: “Potential off rolled students in Year 11 in first term Year 11 /summer term Year 10 (before January census when they would count on a school’s exam results).”
It added: “The names of these students are shared with the relevant AIP to seek support to return them to their previous school as soon as possible.
“Where this is not feasible we have offered some tuition to ensure access to exams paid for by the schools. As outlined our concern is that these young people are more likely to be free school meals eligible.”
Should a parent wish to home-educate their child, they can send a letter informing the school that they intend to take responsibility to provide an education for their child. Once this happens, the school must remove the child from its roll from the date indicated by the parent.
If a child has an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP), parents must then provide information on the education plans to satisfy the EHCP needs. A decision would then be taken by the council’s head of learning inclusion.
Council officers then make regular safeguarding visits and assesses the suitability of education plans sent in by parents.
If they are not suitable, then a school attendance order can be made.
The report added: “Colleagues in the Learning Inclusion Service take relevant action based on the analysis of the EHE data and are active in challenging the practice of off-rolling working with the commissioned Area Inclusion Partnerships in cases where parents have raised this as being pressured to make this choice and where there is information that provides a context suggesting this is the case.
“Where the decision to home educate has come after October and the young person is not able to return to school for a number of complex reasons, we have offered some tuition through the Pupil Tuition Service to enable them to access their GCSE exams. Schools have paid for the exams and made arrangements for the student. Some very vulnerable young people have accessed exams through this service.”
The report will be discussed by members of the council’s Executive Board on Wednesday, September 18.