What’s been said?
When meeting with the Education Select Committee recently, Amanda Spielman, Chief Inspector of Schools, talked about schools which ‘shovel’ children with whom they can’t cope back onto parents who may not be able to cope. An article in The Independent (7 March 2018) outlined the problem in some detail.
In the Committee discussion, the rise in off rolled students was partly attributed to Progress 8, a school accountability measure which was introduced in 2016. But the practice of off rolling is nothing new – Ofsted has been aware of it for a long time. The ‘new’ factor has appeared because schools are now required to inform an LA of the destination of any pupil removed from roll – home education has become the removal destination of choice.
In a speech introducing the 2017 Ofsted Annual Report, Ms Spielman talked about the iniquity of SEND children being pushed out of sight and out of mind, sometimes just sent home because schools cannot cope with the child’s needs. The problem of off rolling is becoming so acute in some parts of the country that Ofsted is planning closer scrutiny of the figures.
One MP blamed Ofsted’s accountability measures for schools adopting the practice – Ms Spielman predictably blamed DfE league tables for the problem, but the fact remains that in some places, home education figures have risen by 400 per cent in the last 3 years, and the reasons for that are manifold. The issue of unregistered schools was also raised, with Ms Spielman again confirming that some parents are removing their children from school ostensibly to home educate them, although they are actually sending them to unregistered schools.
Why does it matter?
For some weeks now, home education has been coming under considerable pressure. There has been no clear distinction between elective home education and reluctant home education. It is quite likely that parents who suddenly find themselves responsible for their children’s education without any warning will be unable to provide suitable education. Instead of considering the different reasons why people home educate, the government and the media have simply looked at the numbers and turned every home educator into a problem to be managed.
What can I do?
Back in 2015, when the issue of rising numbers in home education first hit the headlines Graham Stuart MP, chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Home Education and former chair of the Education Select Committee, said the following: “local authorities have created groups to share best practice, and we’re seeing what I hope is an increasing trend to stop treating home education as a problem to be regulated, and instead see it as an opportunity to be facilitated and supported”. His advice was not heeded, and since then the calls for more regulation and inspection have snowballed.
When you have an opportunity, argue for support, not censure, for parents who are forced to home educate. Encourage the distinction between elective and reluctant home education and call for greater understanding of the issues.