Number of children being educated at home in Norfolk rises by 20pc in one year
The number of children being taught at home has risen by 20pc in one year, leaving council officers struggling to keep up contact with families.
Norfolk County Council said it has seen an “unprecedented increase” in new referrals to its Services to Home Educators (SHE) team, including 388 since September.
The number of home educated children known to the council rose from 1,201 in 2015/16 to 1,452 in 2016/17 - a 21pc jump. It has almost doubled since the 782 in 2011/12.
The army of home educating parents is now equivalent to that of high schools - City of Norwich School, for example, has just over 1,500 children on roll, and Taverham High has just over 1,100.
And, with officers trying to log the decisions and make contact with the families, the council’s children’s services committee has been asked to consider “current staffing levels” to see whether it is “currently suitably resourced to establish the required systems and safeguards” for home educators.
A spokesperson for the council said the “vast majority” of parents who home educate are “absolutely dedicated” to their child’s learning.
MORE: Number of home educating parents in Norfolk trebles over a decade
“Every child in the county deserves a good education and we want to offer support and advice to any parents that are choosing or considering this option... The increase in elective home education is a national trend and the committee will be discussing the possible reasons for the increase and any impact on staffing and capacity,” they said.
Papers released before the meeting on Tuesday show the most common reason for home educating was “philosophic preferences”, though others included attendance, medical or special educational needs, bullying and dissatisfaction with state schooling.
It is parents’ responsibility to ensure children are educated - whether at home or at school. If they choose to home educate they must tell their school, who then refer the family onto the SHE team.
The team then try to check if children are receiving a suitable education - and have the power to intervene if not.
In Suffolk, from September 1 until now, 924 children have been registered as being home educated - 701 are currently being taught at home.
It is an area which is often divisive - while critics say it can leave children at a disadvantage, those opting to do so argue it can actually advance children beyond school-taught peers.
A ‘fantastic’ experience
For Daniel Draper, choosing to home educate his two children, aged two and five, was an easy decision.
Mr Draper, whose family split their time between Mundesley and Italy, where his wife is from, was home schooled by his teacher parents - an experience he described as “fantastic”.
He said his education had been a mix of a structured curriculum and child-led activities, and that it hadn’t been a barrier to career success. He has worked in business, events and national journalism, while his sister went on to study law.
“Sometimes schools can find it difficult to give children life skills,” he said, “and home education makes that easier.
“My son sees it very much as adventures, which he finds exciting.”
Mr Draper, who said the family will soon relocate permanently to Norfolk, said home educated children could be more socially adept than school-taught peers.
“Rather than being in a group and knowing they are your friends and that’s it, they get to choose their friends for the right reasons,” he said.