Increase in home education in Hertfordshire, latest figures show

The figure does not include those who are currently home-schooling because of ‘lockdown’ restrictions

Wednesday, 3rd February 2021, 9:49 am

The number of children in Hertfordshire who are being home-educated has DOUBLED over the past three years, it has emerged.

Latest figures show there are currently 1837 children and young people in the county who are being permanently educated at home, rather than at school.

And education bosses at the county council say that number – which does not include those who are currently home-schooling because of ‘lockdown’ restrictions – is “increasingly significant”.

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They have received 660 ‘elective home education’ (EHE) applications between September and December last year (2020), they say.

And while they recognise the increase reflects a national trend, they say it “is particularly acute in Hertfordshire where EHE numbers have doubled over the last three years”.

The increasing trend is due to be reported to a meeting of the county council’s children, young people and families cabinet panel on Tuesday (February 2).

According to a report prepared in advance of the meeting, in September (2020) – when school attendance became compulsory after the first Covid lockdown – there were 1735 children registered as being home educated.

That was 380 more than the 1355 recorded 12 months earlier (September 2019). And it was 492 more than more than the 1243 registered in September 2018.

In the three months between September (2020) and December it has risen further, to 1837.

According to the report the numbers opting for ‘elective home education’ have doubled in the past three years – but it does not include the figures for 2017.

Any parent can opt to home-educate, so long as they commit to provide ‘efficient full-time education’ that is ‘suitable’ to the child’s age, ability, aptitude or special needs.

However no curriculum or hours specified in the requirements. And parents are not required to provide a broad or balanced curriculum, have a set timetable or set hours, detailed lesson plans, formal lessons, marking or formal assessment.

National estimates – based on data collected by the Association of Directors of Children’s Services – suggest that there could be as many as 75,668 children being educated at home.

And these figures suggest the numbers could have increased by 38 per cent since 2019.

They are based on returns from 133 local authorities, who reported 66,648 children who were known to be electively home educated.

National feedback from that survey, says the report to the cabinet panel, suggests that health concerns relating to Covid-19 have been a primary reason for parents formally opting to home educate this year.

But, it says, others had reported that the ‘positive experience’ of home-schooling during lockdown had contributed to their decision.

And it was noted that many intended to enrol their children back in school once concerns over the virus are alleviated.

Education bosses in Hertfordshire say that of those parents who gave a reason for home educating in the county, the main reason was dissatisfaction with the school system.

Other recorded reasons included educational philosophy, bullying, mental health issues, health issues and traveller culture.

Other less common reasons reported were attendance difficulties, dispute with school, failure to get school preference, risk of exclusion and religious reasons.

However the local authority do not have reasons recorded for 718 children – and a further 367 are recorded as ‘other’.

“Where parents give a reason for electing to educate their child at home dissatisfaction with the school system is the most prevalent reason,” says the report to the cabinet panel.

“However, it is apparent that in a growing number of cases parents have little idea of what EHE entails, or how to go about providing an education for their child.

“In some of these cases parents are telling the Local Authority that they have been advised by schools to undertake EHE.

“Parents who subsequently no longer wish to educate their child at home often require support to secure their child’s return to the school system.”

And commenting the support available to home-schooling parents, it states: “The support, advice and guidance provided to home educating families by the Local Authority is already limited and becoming more so as the numbers continue to increase significantly.”

The data shows that currently 692 home educated children in Hertfordshire are primary school aged and 1145 are secondary school aged.

Less that five per son of those being home educated are reported to have either a Education and Health Care Plan (EHCP) or special educational needs or disabilities (SEND).