The Children's Commissioner gives her views on home education for children with SEND

Skipping school - Invisible children.  How children disappear from England’s schools

Anne Longfield, the Children's Commissioner, captures the issues of home education in her report ' Skipping school - invisible children'.

Her powerful introduction starts off . . .

"One exhausted mother described her daughter’s secondary school to me as being like the Hunger Games. She, like thousands of other parents, had eventually removed her miserable child from school – just one more effectively excluded through no fault of their own from an unforgiving school system which appears to have lost the kindness, the skill or the patience to keep them. When did school become like this? Schools have always been places of some rough and tumble, where the carefree days of early childhood meet the reality of work, of timetables, of expectations, and of more complex social relationships. Schools are places where you develop the skills, the independence and the resilience to grow up well.

But for thousands of children – and increasing each year – there is no school where they fit in. There is no school bell, no timetables, no lesson – no education. And that often means no friendships either.

The phrase ‘home education’ unhelpfully encompasses a wide range of parenting styles – from those who choose to educate their children themselves for social and philosophical reasons and do so perfectly well, to those who choose to keep children out of the school system to avoid the eyes of the authorities or to deny them a secular education; and then those who would love to have their kids in school but cannot find a school to fit their needs.

For this group of parents, educating their children at home is not a choice, but a forced response to difficulties fitting in at school. The child who is being bullied. The child struggling to cope with noisy corridors and classrooms; or sometimes with school uniform policies, homework and timetables. The child not receiving the specialist help she needs. These kids can reach crisis point and without additional care from schools or from external agencies such as CAMHS, the children fall through the gaps.

There are clear indications that the growth in home education is related to the rise in children leaving school due to their needs being unmet. Local authorities say the main reasons children in their area are being home educated are “general dissatisfaction with the school” and “health/emotional reasons”.

Ofsted’s Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman has warned that there is a lot of anecdotal evidence that parents are also home educating their children under duress, because they are being encouraged to do so by the school, or because they want to keep the child out of sight of the state.

The Children’s Commissioner’s Office has spoken to many children and parents who said that they only chose home education because the situation at school had become so desperate – sometimes traumatic for the children involved. This includes many children with special educational needs (SEND).  Recent research by Channel 4’s ‘Dispatches’ programme found that 22% of children withdrawn from school to be home-educated in the 2017-18 academic year had special educational needs."

Read the full report 'Skipping school: Invisible children online here.

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