Essex data: Sharp rise in numbers who home-school
Piers Meyler, Local Democracy Reporting Service
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The number of parents choosing to home-school their children in Essex skyrocketed after the first coronavirus lockdown, according to a council report.
During September 2020, the county council saw the number of parents seeking to electively home-educate their children in the county increased from 1,172 in 2019/2020 to 1,793 in 2020/2021 – an increase of 52%.
The number of children being home-schooled was most noticeable among primary aged children where there was an increase from 561 to 898 – a 60% increase.
One of the reasons behind the rise was due to parents experiencing anxiety linked to Covid after the first lockdown, or “their desire to maintain a small bubble”, a council report said.
This is despite the potential extra costs and long-term implication of finding a school place if they choose to send their children back into the classroom.
An Essex County Council statement to the People and Families Policy and Scrutiny Committee which meets next week, said: “We made contact with all families who elected to home educate during the last academic year, to ensure that parents were fully aware of the financial and school place implications that their decision would bring; and it was clear from these discussions (particularly during the Autumn Term 2020) that such decisions were, in the main, made due to anxieties linked to Covid or their desire to maintain a small bubble.
“This was mainly in relation to any health concerns within the household and shielding requirements for those deemed clinically extremely vulnerable.”
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Overall average attendance levels across primary, secondary and special schools stood between 92% and 94% since full opening in March 2021.
It dipped towards the end of term due to year 11 and year 13 pupils no longer in attendance and the number of pupils required to self-isolate as case rates significantly increased during June and July.
ECC says its priority now is to ensure that no child or young person’s education is adversely affected by the pandemic in the long term and to support the significant increase in emotional wellbeing and mental health issues that are starting to present.
The newly formed Essex Education Task Force has announced it will invest £1million in reading over the next 18 months, to support children and young people affected by the loss of learning and missed opportunities during the Covid-19 pandemic.
In conclusion, the Covid education report said: “The pandemic has been challenging for everyone and education is no exception in that regards, however it has been a vital part of this country’s response to Covid-19 which has not been as widely understood as the health and social care response.
“Even during the lockdowns, schools, settings and colleges have remained open and operated a remote education offer, something new for everyone.
"Education leaders have spent more time on implementing infection control measures than overseeing the quality of teaching and learning.
“Risk Assessments have become part of everyday life, as has dealing with children, young people and staff who have tested positive and undertaking contact tracing and bubble management.
“The pandemic has tested the resilience of every education leader including the education directorate workforce but as a result of that, the relationship and level of trust between the local authority and education leaders is stronger than ever.
“The priority now is to ensure that no child or young person’s education is adversely affected by the pandemic in the long term and to support the significant increase in emotional wellbeing and mental health issues that are starting to present. The challenges will continue to be immense.”