children's commissioner

The children’s commissioner will publish figures for every school in England showing how many of their pupils withdraw to be home educated amid huge rises in some parts of the country.

New data from 11 local areas shows a 48 per cent rise in the number of children disappearing from schools to be educated at home between 2015/16 and 2017/18.

Among those council areas, academies saw children move into home education at a higher rate – but local authority schools were catching up.

The research, published in a report out today from the children’s commissioner Anne Longfield (pictured), shows that many pupils who are home educated are off-rolled, with the analysis suggesting a “small number” of schools could be responsible.

It comes after a survey of local authorities, published in November, showed the number of home educated pupils rose by 27 per cent from 2017 to 2018, and council children services chiefs warning many more are likely to be “hidden from sight”.

Longfield is now calling for a compulsory register of “off the grid” children, stronger measures to tackle off-rolling, more support for families who home educate and decisive action against unregistered schools.

Later this year, the children’s commissioner’s office will also collect data from all councils in England and publish it, school by school, identifying which have high numbers of children being withdrawn into home education.

“Our investigations have revealed thousands of children are ‘off the grid’ because they are being home schooled,” Longfield said.

“The numbers are rocketing and no-one knows how they are doing academically or even if they’re safe. Many are being off-rolled.

“We need to know who these children are, where they are, whether they are safe and if they are getting the education they need to succeed in life.”

Today’s report shows there were almost 60,000 children in England being home educated at any one time in 2018, although the precise figure remains unknown because parents do not have to register home-educated children.

According to data from 11 councils, academies had 2.8 elective home education referrals per 1,000 children last year, compared to 2.4 for LA-run schools.

However, between 2015-2016 to 2017-18, the number of children moving from academies rose by 43 per cent, compared to 58 per cent in council schools (across nine councils that had the data for all years).

In Hackney the number of home educated pupils rose by 94 per cent between 2015/16 and 2017/18, and in Newham it was 176 per cent.

Between 2016/17 and 2017/18, Hackney’s academies saw an increase in children moving into home education of 238 per cent.

The report accompanies a Channel 4 Dispatches documentary “Skipping School: Britain’s Invisible Kids”, presented by Longfield, which will air tonight (Monday).

The children’s commissioner’s office said research undertaken by Dispatches suggests 22 per cent of the children withdrawn from school to be home-educated in 2017/18 had special educational needs.

Meanwhile, 92 per cent of councils “do not feel they have enough powers to assure the safety of home-educated children”.

When local authorities offer to visit a home educating family, in 28 per cent of cases the family refuses, according to today’s report.

“There is a clear case for the government to introduce a compulsory register for all home-educated children, without delay,” Longfield said.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Where children are being home educated, we know that in the vast majority of cases parents are doing an excellent job. 

“We also know, however, that in a very small minority of cases children are not receiving the standard of education they should be, which is why last year we ran a call for evidence on proposals to introduce a register, as well monitoring of provision and support for home educators. We will respond to that in due course.”