Increase in number of children being home educated

News - 27 Nov 2017

Dr Adam Boddison, Chief Executive at nasen talks more about the data obtained by the BBC from 106 councils across England, Wales and Northern Ireland which shows a 57% increase in the number of children and young people being home educated over the past 5 years. It also reveals that there are almost 1000 children with SEND waiting for a school place.

Is home education a problem?

Home education may be the right option for some children and young people, but there must be a genuine choice between school education and home education.  If families are opting for home education because of a lack of confidence in the school system to meet their needs, then we need to look again.

Under the current system, Local Authorities can intervene if they believe a child is at risk of not receiving a suitable home education.  However, it this is deemed a better option than the locally available school education, then there are clearly tensions.

Parents may choose to home educate for a range of reasons, including the provision a personalised curriculum where students can learn at their own pace.  The more challenging aspects of home education can include the costs (parents may need to be off work and to provide learning resources) and access to expertise and support.  The provision of the social element of learning and development can also be a challenge.  It should be included here that children with high learning potential are another significant group that are increasingly home educated, and some of these children will also have SEND. 

Sometimes, the situation can arise where the needs of a learner are too complex to be met within mainstream education, but not complex enough to qualify for a place in a special school.  This can leave some learners stuck in limbo, where home education is one of the only options.  

What are the challenges for schools?

There are some pressures and disincentives on schools that make it difficult for them to be more inclusive.  For mainstream schools, the accountability and assessment agenda means that schools are primarily judged on the academic progress and attainment of learners.  This notion of outcomes is too narrow and in many cases is leading to education provision that is less appropriate for learners with SEND.  for special schools, there is a capacity problem.  Virtually all of them have waiting lists, the demand for places is rising and there are 17 fewer maintained and non-maintained special schools in 2017 compared to 2010. 

For all schools, funding remains an issue and the real terms tightening of school budgets has come at a time when the complexity of need is increasing.  Despite the challenges, some school leaders are showing strong ethical leadership and are providing an inclusive educational offer for all of their students.  However, this can lead to a magnet effect, where inclusive schools gain a reputation in the community for being inclusive and are then overwhelmed with demand.

What should be done?

1.       There should be funded professional development for teachers in mainstream schools, so they can meet a broader and more complex range of needs. 

2.       In addition to increased funding, there should be a focus on how existing SEND funding is spent.  A requirement for schools to report to governors or Trustees on the impact of SEND spend in a similar way to what is required for the Pupil Premium would help to focus attention on this important area.

3.       We need a national strategy for special school places so that waiting lists can be brought down with more fluid provision across both mainstream and special schools.

4.       SEND provision and inclusion should have increased prominence within Ofsted’s revised common inspection framework

Written by Dr Adam Boddison, Chief Executive at nasen

More about nasen 

nasen (National Association of Special Educational Needs) is a charity organisation who have been operating for 25 years.

We are a membership organisation who support thousands of practitioners by providing relevant information, training and resources to enable staff to meet all pupils’ needs. Working with dedicated education professionals, our aim is to ensure that practice for special and additional needs is both effective and current.

For more information about how we can support you, or to sign up for a nasen membership, please visit our membership page


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