Number of children being homeschooled in Hampshire increases by nearly 500% in a decade

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Homeschooling

New figures show that homeschooling in Hampshire has risen by nearly 500% over the past decade sparking concerns about some children becoming socially isolated.

The latest data reveals that Hampshire County Council reported 3,593 homeschooled children in 2023, compared with just 623 in 2013.

That figure is more than doubled in two years as in the 2020/21 academic year, Hampshire County Council reported just 1,355 children in elective home education (EHE).

Nationally, Department for Education’s data shows that the number of school-age children being home-educated increased by more than 10% between autumn 2022 and autumn 2023 up from 81,000 to 92,000.

Parents indicated that ideology is one of the reasons for homeschooling. The county council said they have been working “carefully” to “remove barriers” and get children back to school “when ideology is the reason for homeschooling”.

There are concerns that homeschooling can leave children isolated and that they find it harder to fit in socially.

Councillor Jackie Parker, also school governor, said that her school headteacher “has talked to parents saying that homeschooling children become lonely and isolated because they don’t have friends.”

Councillor Jackie Branson highlighted that a school “is so much more than the learning, is where children become citizens.”

The figures came to light during a Hampshire County Council Education Advisory Panel, which also revealed that school truancy levels are higher than before the coronavirus pandemic, although have improved since last year.

During a meeting of Hampshire County Council’s Education Advisory Panel earlier this week, inclusion support service manager Jon Willcocks updated the panel on the levels of absenteeism in the Hampshire local authority area.

Data showed that in 2022/23, Hampshire County Council recorded 7% absenteeism in primary, secondary, and special needs schools combined.

National Statistics indicates that for the last academic year, 23/24, Hampshire had an overall absence of 6.4%, which is in line with the national trend. The figures exclude Portsmouth and Southampton schools which are run by two city councils.

In England in general, children missed 6.7% of lessons were recorded as absent in the Autumn term 2023/24, a decrease from 7.5% for the same period the previous but higher than the pre-pandemic rates, which were consistently below 5%.

Mr Willcocks said that Hampshire schools are working “very hard” to improve attendance and making attendance a “key priority.”

He said: “Headteachers are really mindful and really aware of the pressures around attendance. Our Hampshire schools are thoughtful, responsive and working very hard to improve attendance in young people.

“We are strengthening the current system, and we have to make sure that we are actually doing everything we can, collectively as a team, to make sure we work very hard to make attendance a key priority. Every day missed is a learning opportunity gone.”

In regard to ‘persistent absentees’, Mr Willcocks said the council is “focused” on that area since it is higher than the overall absenteeism and despite a reduction.

Almost 18.5% of pupils were persistently absent in 22/23, compared with 17.7% in 23/24 and 19.4% nationally.

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