Large number of Suffolk parents switch to home-educating their children

June 1 has been suggested as a possible date schools could return - but teaching unions have express

More parents are choosing to permanently home-school their children - Credit: PA

Scores of Suffolk families opted to permanently switch to home-educating their children during the Covid-19 pandemic, new data has revealed. 

However, education leaders at Suffolk County Council expect some families to send their children back to school before Christmas, as the return to the classroom following coronavirus restrictions begins.

Latest county council figures indicate there are 1,356 pupils in Suffolk being electively home-educated – where parents have chosen to do so – as of August 27 this year.

That compares to the 1,093 registered in September 2019 prior to Covid-19 – 263 more than two years ago.

Education bosses believe the pandemic has been a key factor.

Some parents found educating at home during the lockdowns much better for their routine. Others have had fears about their children returning to classrooms while the virus is still in circulation.

Adrian Orr, assistant director for education and learning at Suffolk County Council, said: “We did see the number of children whose parents had decided to electively home educate went up – not just in Suffolk, they went up nationally.

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“We think that was based upon parental fears about the virus – particularly if there was a family member who was clinically vulnerable.

“Another thing we will be looking at and monitoring in the autumn term is, do we see some of those families coming back to us and saying actually do we want a school place back, which will present a few challenges but be a good thing in my view.

Suffolk County Council assistant director for education and learning, Adrian Orr. Picture: SUFFOLK C

Adrian Orr, assistant director for education and learning at Suffolk County Council - Credit: Suffolk County Council

“If you are home-educating, you have got to be committed to it – home-educating because you don’t want your child in school because of a virus isn’t the best reason.”

It has been acknowledged that the change in working patterns for some people to allow for more home-working will mean that home-educating has become more of an option for them too.

But the council has urged parents to ensure they take their time to carefully consider before making the switch.

It has also been warned that if parents wish to send their child back to school after a period of home-educating, it may not always be possible to return the child to their first preference school – particularly if it is an oversubscribed or popular school with families.

National data for earlier this year indicated it was a trend seen across the country.

In total, 40,000 pupils were taken out of schools between September last year and April this year, compared to an average of 23,000 pupils for the same period in the two years prior.

The Department for Education is planning a register of home-educating children to ensure families are supported.

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