By Tony Earnshaw LDRS

The coronavirus pandemic has prompted more parents in Kirklees to educate their children at home.

In 2019-20 there were 668 children and young people registered as elective home educated, for either all or part of the academic year.

That jumped from 606 in 2018-19 and 464 in 2017-18.

During the lockdown period a further 93 children were removed from school rolls. The council says it anticipates that numbers will continue to increase “specifically related to anxiety” around Covid-19.

Education chiefs said some homeschooling was “enforced” due to the initial national lockdown imposed by the government.

But they have also recognised that more parents and carers have chosen “to avail themselves of this option” to educate their children at home over the last few months.

The increase was noted as part of Kirklees Council’s action plan to address elective home educated. A report said numbers would continue to rise “as a direct result of Covid-19” but that the rise was in line with regional and statistical neighbours.

It added: “The local authority needs to ensure sufficient capacity to deal with the increasing numbers of EHE, particularly to identify where children are not receiving a suitable education and then take the necessary formal actions to address this.”

Senior councillor Carole Pattison said more parents than normal had chosen home education for the children during the pandemic “for safety reasons” as opposed to “principles”.

News of the increase comes as the council’s Ad Hoc Scrutiny Panel on Elective Home Education – the term used by the Department for Education to describe parents’ decisions to provide education for their children at home – released its final report.

Set up in 2017, the panel has worked for more than three years to understand how elective home education works in Kirklees, how many children are involved and what environments are used.

The 52-page report makes seven recommendations, including setting up a dedicated elective home educated team, providing centres in the north and south of the borough where EHE students can sit exams, and supporting elective home educated families with flexi-schooling, where a child receives part of their education at school.

The report revealed that some schools persuaded parents to ‘off roll’ their
child as an alternative to permanent exclusion due to attendance or behavioural issues.

Off rolling was said to be  “a recognised concern at national level”.

The report said: “Parents had felt that they were forced into a corner with the real reasons for the exclusion not being addressed.

“It was believed that schools were taking this approach as it was easier and more cost effective to take them off roll rather than consider flexible learning options or put in place additional support for identified issues.”

The report added that “all parents” lamented the lack of information available, including on the council’s website. It said: “Little information was included about how to remove your child from school and what support might be available from the council and from outside agencies.”

Elective Home Education is different to home tuition provided by a local authority like Kirklees Council, or education provided by a council other than at a school.

In choosing to home educate a child at home, parents have withdrawn them from local authority provision and the responsibility, both practical and financial, then rests with the parents.

In the past the council has sought to underline that in England, education is compulsory but school is not, with the responsibility for a child’s education resting with parents.

Cllr Andrew Marchington who sits on the panel, said the school setting was “not the choice for everybody” and pointed out that it was “really upsetting” that some students who wanted to access examinations could not do so under the current system.