There has been a stark increase in the number of families opting to pull their children out of school in favour of home education, figures reveal.
In August 2017 there were around 430 recorded cases of home-educated children in Bucks, a staggering 57 per cent increase from August 2013.
The county figures reflect a national spike, which has prompted the government to review the way home education as assessed across the country.
However the number of cases is likely to be higher, as is not currently a requirement for parents to declare they are home-schooling their children – which poses challenges for councils to keep track of education being provided to children in Bucks, according to Bucks County Council (BCC) officer, Vivian Trundell.
The government also fears the lack of compulsory registration could result in increase in unregistered schools and radicalisation of pupils.
Speaking at a meeting of BCC’s children’s social care and learning select committee yesterday (May 15), Ms Trundell said: “These are the dilemmas that everybody faces around this – how do we satisfy ourselves that the education being delivered is suitable?
“We are very pleased that the government has decided to look into this and clarify the guidance, it is a very grey area which has led to difficulties trying to establish that – particularly with a community that is very closed and very passionate about delivering the education themselves, and some of them do it brilliantly.”
Council figures obtained through Freedom of Information Requests show the highest represented school years are 10 and 11 – with significantly more girls being home educated in those year groups.
A total of 77.3 per cent of children were home educated due to “lifestyle and cultural beliefs” in 2017/18, while 6.6 per cent of cases were down to the fact the families had recently arrived in the area and had not found a suitable school.
Across the board 56 per cent of home-school cases are for girls, while 61 per cent are for secondary age pupils.
Cabinet member for education at BCC, Mike Appleyard, aired concerns about the council’s “limited resources” to cope with the rising number of home-schooled children, and called for some pupils to be diverted back to state education.
He said: “If the number of singly educated increases significantly we have very limited resources to go and check what is happening in those areas.
“There have been recent comments from government recognising that this is an issue, I think there needs to be some analysis or thought as to how we tackle or deal with this to see if we can’t find a way of diverting people back into the state scene.”
To view the council’s report visit https://democracy.buckscc.gov.uk/mgConvert2PDF.aspx?ID=114101
Picture: Bucks County Council offices in Aylesbury