Parents of children with special educational needs often home school their kids as a last resort rather than a preferred choice, a new Ofsted report has revealed.
The school inspector’s study found that special educational needs, medical, behavioural or other well-being needs were the main reasons behind the decision to educate children at home.
Entitled ‘Exploring moving to home education in secondary schools’, the report found that there was often little or no communication between parents, councils and schools when it came to the decision to move a child out of mainstream education.
The study, which was carried out in seven local authority areas across the East Midlands, found that children were often moved to home education to resolve pressures at school – a process that in some cases could take less than a day.
This could involve parents removing their child from school to avoid exclusion or prosecution for non-attendance or schools applying indirect pressure to convince parents to move their child to home education.
‘Home education is a legitimate parental choice and can be a positive decision when parents are well equipped to provide a good education. However, children should not be moved to home education simply to resolve difficulties in school,’ said Ofsted’s chief inspector, Amanda Spielman.
‘Schools, local authorities and parents need to work together before such a decision is made, to ensure that home education is genuinely in the interests of children and not just the best thing for schools or parents.
‘It’s vital that parents are fully informed about the alternatives, and that they understand all the implications and costs of home-educating their child.’ Ofsted’s report recommended that schools and local authorities develop clear processes for working together once they know a parent’s intention to home-educate.
The report also said that local authorities and schools should be aware that when a school writes a letter to remove a child to home education on behalf of a parent, this may be evidence of off-rolling.
Off-rolling is the practice of removing a pupil from the school roll without a formal, permanent exclusion or by encouraging a parent to remove their child from the school roll for the school’s benefit rather than the child’s.
Responding to the report, Cllr Judith Blake, chair of the Local Government Association’s Children and Young People Board, said: ‘We share Ofsted’s concerns that an increasing number of families of children with complex needs are being encouraged to educate their children at home.
‘We believe that the vast majority of children with SEND would benefit from a mainstream education and are therefore pleased that Ofsted are raising awareness of this practise.
‘However, inspectors should go further and consider levels of mainstream inclusion when grading a school, while mainstream schools should be incentivised and rewarded to provide a more inclusive education environment for children with SEND.’