School bullies are forcing parents to teach at home

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Bullying is the main reason for parents removing their children from school and educating them at home, a survey shows.

More than half of parents who teach their offspring at home do so because the children have been verbally or physically attacked by bullies or because they wished to avoid a school with a reputation for bullying.

Disillusionment with the Government's strict regime of testing and targets was also a concern for 20 per cent of home-educating parents, who said tuition in mainstream state schools was not meeting the social and creative needs of their children. Other reasons cited included the failure to win a place for their child at their preferred secondary.

Lindsay Brown, of Wits End Curriculum Solutions, which provides resources for home-educating parents and surveyed more than 100 families in England and Wales, said: "A high number of parents said their children were unhappy at school, usually because they were being picked on.

"Many children, particularly those who have suffered abuse at school, thrive emotionally and intellectually when taken from negative influences."

Mrs Brown said: "There is a widespread misconception that home education is suitable only for gifted children, or those whose development is behind that of their peers, but [it] can benefit all children, regardless of their ability."

There are no national figures for how many children are educated at home. But Education Otherwise, a charity supporting home-educating parents, estimates that 170,000 children are taught at home. It says 20,000 parents took their children out of school in the past year. Claire Turnham, a charity spokeswoman, said: "Bullying is a major factor, but an increasing number choose home education because they value the freedom and flexibility."

Parents have a legal duty to ensure their children are educated but do not need to be teachers to do the job. Home-educated children do not have to follow the national curriculum.

The Professional Association of Teachers has called for a change in the law to compel home-educating parents to accept external checks and monitoring.

An education department spokesman said: "Schools must have robust anti-bullying policies, and parents of bullies can face fines of up to £1,000 if they do not tackle their child's behaviour."