The number of home schooled pupils in West Sussex has risen sharply.
A freedom of information request submitted to West Sussex County Council revealed that, in the last five years, the number rose by more than 90 per cent, from 477 pupils in 2013/14 to 917 in 2017/18.
The biggest rise came between 2015/16 and 2016/17, when the number increased from 622 pupils to 800 – a rise of almost 30 per cent.
A spokesman for West Sussex County Council said: “The numbers of parents/carers in West Sussex who have elected to home school their child/ren has echoed the rise nationally.”
The number of school-aged pupils in West Sussex who are educated at home remains under one per cent.
In 2013/4, 0.46 per cent of statutory school age children known to West Sussex were home schooled – a number which rose to 0.74 per cent in 2016/7.
According to the BBC, the national average is 0.5 per cent.
The figures also showed that more children of secondary school age are home schooled than those of primary school age.
In 2017/18, 363 primary school children were home schooled compared with 554 secondary school children.
The spokesman said: “There are a number of children who are home schooled early in their schooling years and remain home schooled as they go through the year groups.
“Added to this are those becoming electively home educated during their secondary education and the numbers in secondary are bigger.”
Across most districts in the county, the number of home schooled children has steadily increased over the last five years.
In Arun, Worthing, Horsham and Mid Sussex, numbers rose consecutively over the five year period.
However Chichester has seen a small dip in the number of homeschooled children in the last year, from 172 in 2016/17 to 158 in 2017/18.
Horsham is the district with the highest number of homeschooled children, at 201, while Worthing comes in second at 168.
Reasons for home education
West Sussex County Council also records the reasons given by parents for homeschooling their children.
In 2017/18, the most common reason given – excluding those who did not give a specific answer – was for philosophical reasons.
This reason was given for 244 pupils.
The spokesman explained: “Philosophical home educators are generally families who feel the school education system would not fit with their ideals and wishes for their child’s education.
“This individual philosophy may be around just education, but often encompasses wider values on how they wish to live their lives.”
The second most common reason given was for health reasons (144) followed by disagreements with the school (81) and because of bullying (57).
The spokesman said: “The decision to home educate for health reasons is a complex area, it is difficult to talk in general terms as the needs of an individual child vary.
“Schools try and support the needs of all the children on their roll but for some parents they feel home educating children better meets their needs.”
Of the other reasons, 37 people said it was due to religious or cultural reasons while 35 put it down to a school admissions issue.
The duty of the council
The county council said its elective home education team followed the Department for Education’s guidance on the monitoring of home education.
The team makes contact with home schooled families on an annual basis.
The spokesman said: “West Sussex County Council has a legal duty to ensure all children in West Sussex are receiving a suitable, efficient and full time education and is committed to working with home educating parents in a spirit of partnership and cooperation.
“We encourage parents/carers to register with us to help us establish they are receiving the education they are entitled to and that it is suitable.
“However, home educating parents are under no legal duty to register or respond to enquiries about the provision they are making.
“When the council has been notified that a young person is being home educated, a member of the Pupil Entitlement Team will offer an initial home visit.
“Basic information about the child, such as his/her age and details of any special needs, as well as initial details about the intended education and learning experiences are then passed to an Advisory Teacher who will arrange an annual home visit and also work with the parents/carers to assess the provision and offer advice such as teaching aids and materials, educational and local resources etc.”
If it appears that a suitable education is not being provided, West Sussex County Council has a duty to investigate further, the spokesman said.
“The Advisory Teacher will offer advice as to how to improve the situation,” said the spokesman.
“If the Advisor Teacher remains dissatisfied with the education being provided, they may contact other agencies to offer advice and support in seeking a return to school.”
The figures from the county council also revealed that significant numbers of homes chooled pupils are returning to a school roll.
In 2015/16, 119 home schooled pupils were returned to a school roll, while in 2016/17, the number rose to 176.
The number so far for 2017/18 is 52.
A bill which would give local authorities more power to monitor the educational, physical and emotional development of children receiving elective home education, has passed through the committee stage in the House of Lords.
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