Ofsted boss 'concerned' about surge in home education as under-pressure schools 'shovel' children back to parents

Schools that cannot cope hand children back to parents who cannot cope, Ofsted boss warns

Eleanor Busby
Education Correspondent
Wednesday 07 March 2018 20:34 GMT
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Children are increasingly being educated at home due to pressures on schools
Children are increasingly being educated at home due to pressures on schools (Corbis)

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The Ofsted boss is “very concerned” about a huge rise in home education which she says can be partly blamed on schools under pressure “shovelling” children back to parents.

Amanda Spielman, Chief Inspector of Ofsted, told MPs that schools handing over responsibility because they could not cope has contributed to the significant growth in home schooling.

Her comments to the Commons Education Select Committee came after headteachers and local authority officers suggested home schooling had surged because of accountability pressures.

David Whitaker, an alternative academies principal in Barnsley, said some teachers under pressure hint to parents that elective home education may be the best option for their child.

“Is it really elective home education?” Mr Whitaker, founding member of the Headteachers’ Roundtable, asked the committee on Tuesday. “It has just gone out of control.”

Mr Whitaker suggested that accountability pressures on schools were partly to blame for a 400 per cent rise in the numbers on the elective home education register in Barnsley over three years.

Meanwhile, Claire George, head of education for Peterborough pupil-referral service, said normally she would expect 90 to 95 pupils being home educated in her borough. Currently there are 149.

When questioned on the growing trend at the Commons Education Select Committee on Wednesday, Ms Spielman added: “There are children who are not in school because schools can’t cope and they shovel them back onto parents who aren’t necessarily able to cope.”

The Ofsted boss added that she was also concerned about parents who said they were home educating but who were in fact sending children to unregistered schools with a “religious slant”.

“It is clearly a growing area and one where it is very difficult to have no handle on why a child is there, whether they are safe, and whether they are getting a minimum expected standard of education”, Ms Spielman said.

James Frith, the Labour MP for Bury North, accused Ofsted of placing some of the pressure on schools to “off roll” – removing children through informal methods – to improve exam results.

“I don’t think there is enough agility in the Ofsted framework that rewards the schools that are keeping hold of their kids when other schools are actively ‘off rolling’”, Mr Frith said.

But Ms Spielman insisted that school league table measures were more to blame for off rolling than the Ofsted framework.

Ralph Holloway, who manages services for pupils with special educational needs for Essex County Council, suggested earlier this week that the introduction of Progress 8 – a secondary school accountability measure – had led to schools asking for more places at pupil referral units (PRUs) for excluded children. He told MPs: “I’ve even had heads say to me, ‘You need to build more PRU places because of Progress 8’. Which is completely missing the point.”

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