As few as one in five families who decide to educate their children at home in Lancashire allow the local authority to visit them and assess their progress
Figures revealed to Lancashire County Council’s education scrutiny committee also show that only 40 per cent of parents and carers will accept help and advice from the local authority to carry out their teaching responsibilities.
There were 1,662 home educated children in the county in 2018, continuing the trend of an increase of about 250 pupils every year whose classroom is wherever their family decides it should be.
Members heard that only half of households reveal the reason they have decided not to send their children to school – and they are under no obligation to do so.
“We visit families where the children are desperate to show us the work they’ve done,” Frances Molloy, the authority’s school attendance lead, said.
“Then at the other end of the spectrum, there are those [parents] who say they only did it because they are at the end of their tether – and there is a whole spectrum in between.
“We do have the right to ask parents to satisfy us about the [education] on offer,” she added.
However, council education officers currently have no right of entry to a property where a child is being home schooled and the law does not require them to track educational progress.
There is roughly an equal split between the number of boys and girls being home educated in the county, with years 9-11 of secondary school – the GCSE years – being the most common time that children are kept at home.
There is no requirement for home educated children to sit formal exams, although the county council helps families to arrange the tests if they choose. Home-schooled children do not have to be taught a broad range of subjects, nor follow the national curriculum.
Committee member Kenwyn Wales, representing church free schools on the committee, said he found the figures “devastating” – particularly once those who had made the home schooling decision for justified religious or philosophical reason were discounted from the statistics.
“We have got up to a thousand families in the county [who] are not convinced the education system is responding to the needs of their children – or they are withdrawing [their children] from school for malevolent reasons,” he said.
But one committee member described how he had home educated his own three children for almost two years – and when they did return to a classroom setting, they were assessed as being up to two years ahead of their new classmates.
“Home education does work for the right people if it’s put in place correctly,” John Withington, representing primary school parent governors, said.
"The main thing about learning is remembering – so we took them out on adventures and asked them questions. [When we went to] to the zoo, we asked them to find out all they could about how it operates and how much money it needed each year.
“We need to concentrate on the ones who are abusing [the system]…and who can’t be bothered,” he added.
Frances Molloy said the authority had “anecdotal” evidence of some home educated children making good progress and going on to university. She added that some parents decided to home school, because their child had not been offered the family’s preferred school place.
A private member’s bill put to parliament, which the committee had called on the government to support – and which would have given local authorities the power to carry out annual assessments of home schooled children – has been dropped.
REASONS FOR REMOVING CHILDREN FROM SCHOOL IN LANCASHIRE (2018/19 TO DATE)
Bullying – 47
Cultural – 93
Other – 192
Unknown – 851
Source: Lancashire County Council, 2018