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Why home schooling is on the rise in Suffolk

PUBLISHED: 07:30 21 February 2019

Bec Jasper from PACT said some parents felt they had no choice but to educate their child at home. Picture: LUCY TAYLOR

Bec Jasper from PACT said some parents felt they had no choice but to educate their child at home. Picture: LUCY TAYLOR

Some Suffolk schools are actively encouraging parents to educate their children at home, the county’s education boss has revealed amid a spike in the number of pupils being home schooled.

Suffolk County Council's scrutiny committee heard that off-rolling was one of the reasons youngsters were being educated at home. Picture: ARCHANTSuffolk County Council's scrutiny committee heard that off-rolling was one of the reasons youngsters were being educated at home. Picture: ARCHANT

Education cabinet member Gordon Jones told February’s scrutiny committee that Suffolk has potentially seen a “doubling” in the number of children who are home educated in the last two or three years.

He cited a number of reasons – including some parents genuinely feeling that was the best option, others who felt they couldn’t get the right special educational needs (SEN) provision, bullying concerns or religious factors.

Yet ‘off-rolling’ – where schools deliberately encourage parents to take their child off the school register to home educate them – was another concern raised by Mr Jones.

Common reasons for this practice are because a child is disruptive or not achieving good enough results, in turn affecting the school’s overall performance.

Gordon Jones, Suffolk Councy Council cabinet member for children's services, said off-rolling was a worrying trend. Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCILGordon Jones, Suffolk Councy Council cabinet member for children's services, said off-rolling was a worrying trend. Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCIL

“There are some undoubtedly off-rolling from schools and I think there are some schools that have maybe encouraged certain children not to attend,” he said.

“In some ways I think they are the most worrying of the group [of home schooled pupils] and work is being done on that.”

For local authority schools the council’s education team liaises directly with staff, while concerns at academies are taken up with the academy trust and regional schools commissioner.

Data for the number of home schooled pupils was not available at the time of publication.

Jack Abbott said more needed to be done to stop the practice. Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCIL/SIMON LEE PHOTOGRAPHYJack Abbott said more needed to be done to stop the practice. Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCIL/SIMON LEE PHOTOGRAPHY

One Suffolk parent, who wished to remain anonymous, said their child had been off-rolled because they had complex neuro-developmental special educational needs, and the school was unable to meet that child’s need.

Unless the parent agreed to home school, they faced a £60 per day per parent fine from the truancy team, it was claimed.

“That was the only reason we did it – to avoid the fine,” the parent said.

“It was absolutely despicable – my child’s confidence was ruined, they missed an entire year of school and had been made to feel like they had done something wrong.”

Bec Jasper from Parents And Carers Together (PACT) support group claimed that while many schools were supportive to youngsters, others were encouraging parents to take children out of school.

“Some schools are very attendance-led and seem to prefer the route of fining and threats of prosecuting parents for non-attendance,” she claimed.

“This can often lead to families feeling they have no option but to de-register and home educate a child in this situation.”

Labour education spokesman Jack Abbott called for more to be done to support parents and families, and more stringent measures for academy trusts which are said to have off-rolled youngsters.

“Suffolk County Council, the regional schools commissioner and Ofsted have to start challenging the schools and trusts which are becoming increasingly exclusive, as they fail to provide the provision or the flexibility necessary for SEN children to thrive,” he said.

“Equally, better support must be given to schools and their staff by providing them with adequate funding and resources, as well as reforming arbitrary exam and attendance measures which can penalise inclusivity.

“No family should ever feel that their child does not belong in school – a universally accessible, inclusive education system is a right, not a luxury, so it is about time we put children and their families first.”

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