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Wednesday, 07 October 2020 17:53

Elective Home Education & Children Missing from Education in Kent 2019-20

In the first three weeks of September this year, 502 Kent families withdrew their children from school to Home Educate, compared to just 201 in the whole of September last year. This is wholly unsurprising as it follows the unique school year of 2018-19 when the large majority of children did not attend school for four whole months from the end of March. As a result, many families who might have been tempted to withdraw their children during that period will not have done so, but let the situation roll on to this term.

Overall, 749 Kent children left school to take up what is known as Elective Home Education (EHE) in the whole of 2019-20, well down from the record 1310 children the previous year and bringing to a halt the sharp annual rise which saw the total increase by 70% over the previous four years. Another 544 children simply went missing from Kent schools, compared with 830 in 2017-18.

The Chief Inspector of Schools, Amanda Spielman, ascribed some of this term’s increase to ‘Anxious parents taking their children out of school to home-educate them, as widespread misinformation on social media fuels fears over the risks of Covid’. This was determined from a pilot study of 130 schools earlier this term. I suspect a greater factor is that families who made that decision from March onwards had no need to follow it through until September. 

Unsurprisingly, the two secondary schools topping the EHE list were also both in the top three in 2018-19. These were High Weald Academy where 2.4% (4.8 in 2018-19) of the families of Year 7-11 children withdrew their children, and Oasis Academy Isle of Sheppey with 2.2% (3.6%). Hartsdown Academy, the school which came second in 2018-19, was fourth with 1.6%, and also had the highest proportion of secondary aged children Missing From Education at 2.6%, bearing the brunt of immigration across the Channel and almost certainly the highest proportion of social challenges in the county. My next article, on exclusions, shows Hartsdown completely vanishing from the list of high excluders in 2018-19, revealing a very different and welcome approach to discipline in a challenging situation. 

The other three schools in the list of highest EHE percentages below are all a surprise to me, so may be partially a property of the smaller numbers this year.

Elective Home Education 
Kent 2019-20      
   EHE  EHE %
All Kent Secondary
457
0.53%
High Weald Academy 6 2.4%
Oasis Academy
Isle of Sheppey
27 2.2%
Towers School 18 1.8%
Hartsdown Academy 10 1.6%
Maplesden Noakes School 15 1.6%
St Augustine Academy 12 1.6%
 
As I have written before, many families positively and responsibly choose to home educate and there are plenty of resources to advise them, with some local groups identified here, happy to support those looking to Home Educate. KCC publishes a helpful webpage with guidance and local policy. However, too many others make this decision for more negative reasons explored in some detail in my 2017 article here. To these reasons can now be added fear of Coronavirus.

The age group where most children are withdrawn for EHE is Year 10, with 136 children being taken out last year. This, along with Year 11, are the two age groups where there has been considerable off-rolling by schools in previous years to improve performance, but there are no obvious signs of this in the 2019-20 data. What is pleasing is to see that two schools, Ebbsfleet Academy and Folkestone Academy, both under new management after previous highly controversial leaders, have seen their figures plummet recently.

One primary school had six children whose families chose EHE, otherwise, there were none with more than five.

There are also children whose families simply withdrew them from school last year without notifying anyone of their destination often families returning to their home country or else who are Travellers. The school which stands out is Pilgrims Way Primary in Canterbury, which lost 4.8% of its pupil numbers in this way last year. I wrote in an article earlier this year ‘A school which has had considerable misfortune serving a difficult community in a socially deprived area of the city’ as I went on to explore the unique challenges it has faced.

It remains to be seen what effect the continued Coronavirus epidemic has on the story above for the current year. One thing is certain, it will not look like any year before with the crisis continuing for at least another six months, and the situation in our schools remaining uncertain putting additional pressure on children and families.  .  

Last modified on Friday, 09 October 2020 07:34

1 comment

  • Comment Link Sunday, 18 October 2020 12:44 posted by Headteacher affected by the problem

    Congratulations Peter on covering this story two weeks before the Sunday Times got to it today.

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