ducation in the United Kingdom is witnessing a notable shift, with a significant rise in homeschooling. Government figures from the Department of Education (DofE) reveal compelling statistics that shed light on this emerging trend.

The rise in homeschooling rates in the UK has become a topic of discussion and concern among education campaigners. Over the last seven or eight years, the number of children being homeschooled has skyrocketed, jumping more than 13 percent in one term last year.

This increase has led to heightened fears and a perception of a growing trend in homeschooling.

"I think it is a surge — these numbers have skyrocketed over the last seven or eight years," - Anne Longfield, the former children's commissioner who now chairs the Centre for Young Lives think-tank.

The data, according to new figures, indicates that a quarter of parents are now involved in teaching their children at home, with fewer than one in five stating that health concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic were the main factor behind their decision.

Despite the fears and concerns, some experts believe that homeschooling is likely to continue, driven by a desire for a more personalized and flexible approach to education. As the numbers continue to rise, it remains to be seen how the government will respond to the demands for action and how this trend will shape the future of education in the UK.

Homeschooling Surge:

At the beginning of the autumn term 2022, 9,080 pupils were homeschooled across the West Midlands. However, by the summer of 2023, this number had soared to 11,130, marking an increase of over 2,000 students during the academic year.

The figures in Birmingham revealed a rise from 2,120 at the start of the academic year to 2,660 children being homeschooled by the summer of 2023.

The trend extends beyond the West Midlands, with Worcestershire experiencing a 23% rise and Staffordshire witnessing a nearly 28% increase in homeschooled students throughout the academic year.

Notable rises were also observed in Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin, Herefordshire, Coventry, and Stoke-on-Trent.

A total of 3,044 children in Kent were being home educated in April 2022, compared with 1,997 in 2018, according to Freedom of Information figures obtained by BBC Radio Kent.

As a whole, England is grappling with a surge in homeschooling that might become a permanent fixture in the educational landscape. Data from the Department for Education estimates that 97,000 children were homeschooled in the summer term of 2023, representing an increase of 11,000 compared to the start of the same year when 86,000 children were homeschooled.

Drivers Behind the Trend:

While some parents attributed their decision to homeschool solely to health concerns over COVID-19, the figures suggest that lifestyle or "philosophical reasons" are becoming prominent factors.

The Department for Education's statistics also indicate that 20% of secondary school pupils in England were persistently absent from September to mid-January, showcasing a complex educational landscape.

Here are what parents are saying as reported by bbc.com

"I think some people, probably for similar reasons to me, want to spend more time with their children. But also the school system, I think, is really struggling to cater for the needs of lots of children." - Home educator Vicky said

Rebekah, a mother of four, said her decision was "to do with enjoying the freedom that came in the early years of allowing them to learn at their pace".

"The anxiety levels in children now seem to be a lot higher than they used to be, you hear of bullying at school that's not being tackled or children just not enjoying school, like my child." - A parent of 13 year old (for bbc.com)

A survey also conducted by the same institution measuring their student’s well-being has found that 91.5% of parents believe that their child’s wellbeing has improved since they opted for home-schooling.

"There has been an increase in the number of children being home educated since the pandemic and I'm aware that mental health and anxiety is a factor, which has probably contributed to those higher numbers nationally." -Councillor Adam Price, the authority's lead member for children's services,.

“Homeschooling allows children to learn at their own pace and at a time which suits them. It is a much more child-centred approach to education than is available in a traditional classroom.” - Wolsey Hall Oxford Principal, Lee Wilcock.

As we explore the rising trend of homeschooling, it becomes evident that the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on education is shaping a new normal.

The statistics indicate a shift in the perception of traditional classrooms, raising questions about the long-term implications for the education system in the UK.

The Covid pandemic created an opportunity for many families to consider and try schooling their children at home, integrated into their lifestyle.

This, combined with advances in technological solutions, has led to a significant increase in homeschooling as parents voluntarily withdraw their children from mainstream "exam factories" or "broken" schools to experience a more varied, challenging, and tailored learning approach that can also foster close family relationships and build essential life skills.

Feb 20, 2024
Alternate Learning

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