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Concerns raised over increasing numbers of home-schooled children

05 Jul 2024 4 minute read
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Elgan Hearn Local Democracy Reporter

Spiralling numbers of children being educated at home in one county has sparked concern amongst councillors.

At a meeting of Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council’s People Scrutiny committee on Tuesday, July 2 councillors received a report on Social Services safeguarding performance covering a six month period from October 2023 to the end of this March.

The report had been jointly written with education chiefs and included sections on safeguarding in schools and figures on the number of children being educated at home.

In January 2023, the figure was 214, back in 2020 this figure 70.

The breakdown for the October 2023 to end of March period saw 21 pupils in secondary schools choose to be taught at home and a further six in primary schools.

Concern

Cllr Derrick Bevan said: “I’m very concerned about the number of home educated children we’ve got; it seems to be on increasing every year.”

He understood that the number went up a “lot” due to the Covid-19 pandemic but had expected the numbers would have “come back down” since then.

Cllr Bevan was concerned that the progress of home educated children’s studies and exam results were not “being checked.”

Cllr Bevan said: “It seems to be much higher now than pre-Covid,

“We should be doing a lot more to encourage them back to school.

“It’s not doing the children any good, a lot of them are not being properly educated.

“It’s very discouraging to see the numbers going up and up.”

“Growing issue”

Interim director of education, Luisa Munro-Morris told the committee that schools were asked to keep a place open for children for 20 days after they are taken out of school.

This is so that the education department can “work with the family” to get the child back into school.

Dr Munro-Morris said: “We are concerned and are monitoring those figures.

“We’re doing lots to try and bring them down, equally this is a problem all local authorities are experiencing and is something the Welsh Government is very concerned about it and are trying to develope a national steer.

“It’s a growing issue not just here in Wales but also in England and Scotland as well.”

Dr Munro-Morris told councillors that “sometimes” parents will react without maybe considering the wider consequences of taking their child out of school.

Dr Munro-Morris said: “There is a big responsibility on the parents to educate the child and they may not be fully aware, or they might think the local authority will provide alternative provision.

“Those 20 days give parents the enough of an opportunity to ask the relevant questions and check exactly what would be expected of them.

Cllr John Hill said: “Some of these children can’t face going to school as they have some sort of phobia,

“During Covid of course a lot of children were home educated through technology do we offer these children and families a facility to join in lessons online?”

Wellbeing service

Dr Munro-Morris: “Our ultimate aim is for all of our young people to be in school.

“We have a wellbeing service that runs out of Brynmawr foundation school.

“We’ve employed a member of staff who will do one to one sessions and that might involve joining a lesson using technology, but that would be for a very short period of time – to maybe give them a little bit of confidence of seeing their peers online before seeing them in person.”

Councillors agreed the report and want to see how Blaenau Gwent compares with other local authority on the numbers of home schooled children.


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