Education campaigners demanded government action Friday after new figures revealed that the number of children in England being homeschooled jumped more than 13 percent in one term last year.
The spike — from an estimated 86,200 in homeschooling at the start of 2023 to 97,600 in the April to July summer term — emerged from data provided by local councils to the Department for Education (DfE).
It showed a 20 percent rise during the last full school year from September to July.
Nearly a quarter of parents involved said they were keeping children at home primarily as a “lifestyle choice” or for “philosophical or preferential reasons”.
These were by far the most commonly given main reasons, ahead of mental health factors (eight percent) and general dissatisfaction with the school (six percent).
The homeschooling trend, which has intensified since Covid prompted many parents to teach their children for prolonged periods, has heightened fears that increasing numbers are missing out on professional education and socialisation.
“I think it is a surge — these numbers have skyrocketed over the last seven or eight years,” former children’s commissioner Anne Longfield, who now chairs the Centre for Young Lives think tank, told BBC radio.
– ‘Not a choice’ –
“We need to take this much more seriously,” Longfield said, urging the government and local authorities to “really help schools provide the kind of support they know these children need to stay in school”.
Only four percent of parents said health concerns over Covid were the main factor behind their decision, suggesting the pandemic-associated increase could be morphing into a long-term trend.
Although some parents were choosing to homeschool, Longfield argued that for many more, “it’s not a choice”.
She said a range of factors — from kids feeling unhappy in school and not getting the support they need to a lack of state-funded resources — were contributing to the decisions to homeschool.