Twice the number of pupils at an Oasis academy have been “home educated” since the start of the year compared to other schools in the area, with parents alleging they were encouraged to remove their children if they didn’t want them to be excluded.
Thirty-three pupils were taken out of the Oasis Academy Isle of Sheppey, off the north coast of Kent, to receive home education between September and April, according to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request published by the Kent Independent Education Advice blog.
The number of pupils leaving for home education from the academy, which belongs to one of the biggest multi-academy trusts in the country, Oasis Community Learning, is almost double that of the next two schools with the highest numbers of pupils leaving into home education in the area, which both had 17 pupils leave since the start of the year.
It is one of the highest rates in the area and the highest number for the whole of Kent, in part because it is a large school.
It comes as new data shows a 300 per cent rise in the number of pupils being home educated over the last decade across the country. Kent has the sixth largest rise in home educated pupils out of all councils, the figures show.
Oasis Community Learning did not dispute the number of pupils who had left. But Kirstie Fulthorpe, regional academy director for the trust, said “all decisions to take a pupil off-roll were solely as a result of parental choice”.
A “significant number” of the pupils who left to be home educated were “persisent school refusers”, she added.
The district of Swale, which the Isle of Sheppey falls into, is in the top 10 per cent most deprived areas in the country, and has seven of the 20 most deprived local council wards in Kent.
Peter Read, an education advisor and author of the Kent Advice blog, said he had heard from nine families who claimed to have been “encouraged” in meetings with the academy to home educate their children or risk their exclusion instead.
Three parents told him directly they were encouraged to home educate as an exclusion alternative, and another six shared details of the same experience in a private Facebook discussion, said Read. Schools Week has also subsequently spoken to two of these parents.
Oasis Academy Isle of Sheppey is a fully inclusive academy committed to providing the best education
Read added the academy also sent some year 11 pupils home for study leave without tuition, while others continued to be prepared for their GCSEs in school.
Fulthorpe confirmed that four per cent of pupils at Oasis Academy Isle of Sheppey had been told to conduct their exam revision from home, because this was “considered to be the most conducive arrangement all round”.
A spokesperson for Oasis confirmed the pupils were asked to do independent revision from home because they were disruptive pupils.
The figures in Kent come as a 361 per cent rise has been revealed across the country in the number of pupils home educated, from 8,361 children in 2006, to 38,573 last year, according to a Freedom of Information request by Oxford Home Schooling. In this time the total pupil numbers in secondary schools has dropped.
At the top of the list for home education was Southampton, followed by Hertfordshire, Liverpool, Northamptonshire, Walsall, and then Kent.
Kent had a 793 per cent increase over the past decade in pupils staying at home for their education.
Fulthorpe added: “Oasis Academy Isle of Sheppey is a fully inclusive academy committed to providing the best education for all our students.
“We always encourage every student to be as fully immersed in academy life as possible at all times.”
Clarification: We have amended the article to make clear the schools compared to Oasis Academy Isle of Sheppey are those with the next highest rates, not the nearest schools geographically