Home schooling soars as parents react to cuts in the classroom

Increasing numbers of parents are teaching their children at home amid frustration over cuts to mainstream education.
Increasing numbers of parents are teaching their children at home amid frustration over cuts to mainstream education.
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Increasing numbers of parents are teaching their children at home amid frustration over cuts to mainstream education.

Figures obtained by Scotland on Sunday show the number of pupils being home-schooled either full-time or part-time has increased by more than 60 per cent in some areas over the past five years.

Details provided by 22 local councils show the number of children learning at home has increased from 610 in 2014/15 to 827 in 2018/19 – a rise of 36 per cent.

The actual number of children being educated at home is likely to be much higher, however, as it will include those who have never been in mainstream school.

In Glasgow, the number of children being home-schooled on either a part-time or full-time basis has risen from 61 to 100, 16 of whom have additional support needs (ASN).

In Edinburgh, there are 48 children educated at home on a full-time basis and a further 65 part-time.

Others areas of the country with large numbers of children being home-schooled include Aberdeenshire (73), Dumfries and Galloway (95), North Lanarkshire (70) and Perth and Kinross (61). Highland Council was unable to provide figures for the current school year, but said there were 138 children home-schooled in 2017/18.

Laurie Matthew, a trustee of home education charity Schoolhouse, said many children with additional needs, or those being bullied, “thrive” when being taken out of mainstream schooling.

She said: “Generally speaking, those people with children already in a school who get in touch with us do so because they’re having problems within the school, within the education system.

“Increasingly it’s children with additional learning needs. Some of the children have disabilities or some just have a higher need – an awful lot of parents are now in that category and they get in touch to say school isn’t working for them, it’s failing.”

Asked if the problems had been worsened by cuts, she said: “Absolutely. There’s been massive cuts and the teachers are under a lot of pressure.”

Former primary school teacher Tom Crombie runs an Edinburgh-based online school, My Online Schooling, which has seen pupil numbers in the UK and overseas increase from 15 to 240 in two years. The pupils are taught by teachers over the internet in real time and can ask questions, make comments and watch videos.

“Our experience from talking to parents is that they feel there is a lack of support available in mainstream schools,” Crombie said. “A lot of that is due to budget cuts and has meant that for some children, the support they require to access isn’t there any more, so parents are looking for an alternative.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “If parents or carers are unsatisfied with the support being provided to their child there are a range of dispute resolution mechanisms available including independent mediation and adjudication, and referral to the Additional Support Needs Tribunal.”