Homeschooling in England and Wales

how many children are home educated, what are their characteristics and what are the challenges of increasing home education?

The number of children being homeschooled has more than doubled since 2015, with most of these children being between key stages 2 and 4. While the trend towards homeschooling is part of a broader process of postmodernisation in education, we still have only 1% of children being home educated in England and Wales, meaning this isn’t a significant trend.

How many children are home educated?

There has been a rapid increase in the number of parents choosing to homeschool their children in recent years in the United Kingdom.

Between 2013 to 2018 there was a 130% increase to bring the number of homeschooled children to just over 57 000 by 2018. (1)

In 2019 another survey found that there were 60,544 registered home educated children in England. This is an increase of around 15% compared to 2018 (2)

However, with a total of 9 million children in school this is less than 1% of children who are being home-educated.

The Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) produced a more
recent estimate of around 81,200 registered home educated children in
England as of October 2021. This was based on survey responses from 124 out of 152 LAs and so may not be representative.

The ADCS further estimated that around 115,500 pupils in England were known to be home educated at some point during the academic year 2020/21.

Taken together the above data suggest that the number of homeschooled children in England and Wales is increasing, but we need to be cautious with recent numbers as the pandemic may have skewed recent data upwards. Also, Homeschooling maybe a temporary status for some of these children, rather than them being homeschooled for their entire school career.

(1) Oxford Homeschooling: The Growth of Homeschooling

(2) House of Commons Library: Homeschooling in England

(3) Education Otherwise

What kinds of children are home educated

The Department for Education does not routinely collect data on all the characteristics of home educated children but we do know that 0.9% of home educated children have EHC plans, meaning they have a formal statement of special educational needs.

We also have data by age in 2020 which shows us that most home educated children are between key stages 2-4.

  • 1.3% of home educated pupils are early years
  • 10% are key stage 1
  • 28% are key stage 2
  • 30% are key stage 3
  • 27% are key stage 4
  • Only 3% are key stage 5.

So this suggests there is a pattern of parents pulling children out of education at key stage two and then home educated kids going back in to formal education by key stage 5.

There are no available data on gender, ethnicity or sexuality, or social class, but for later I think it’s reasonably safe to guess that we are talking about mainly middle class parents doing the home education given that they are the ones who are going to have the material and cultural capital to home educate.

Why do parents choose to home-educate?

According to a 2021 House of Commons Research briefing (2) in which parents were asked to state the top three reasons for home schooling, the main reasons parents in England and Wales opt for home schooling are:

  1. Covid related concerns
  2. Philosophical or lifestyle choice
  3. Physical and mental health
  4. No reason provided
  5. Disatisfaction with the school
  6. Did not get school preference
  7. Other reasons such as bullying, avoiding exclusion, but both of these are less than 1% of choices.

So if we discount the recent Pandemic, the two stand-out reasons are philosophical or lifestyle choices and the mental and physical health of the the child.

I’m not sure if ‘religious or cultural belief’s comes under the philosophical statement above, but that’s also a commonly stated reason on most home-education web sites.

What’s interesting about this is that these are pro-active choices, rather than re-active choices – in general parents are home educating because of their deeply held values or for the health benefit of their children rather than reacting to what they perceive as sub-standard schools.

What are the challenges of home education?

While it is every parents right to educate their children as they see fit, there is a risk that children who are home educated are going to receive a lower standard of education than their school educated peers and achieve lower exam results, but of course that all depends on the quality of schools available in the local areas.

An increase in home education could mean a more fragmented society as there will be more diversity of education, but as long as parents are encouraging their children to be reasonable and responsible human beings this shouldn’t be a problem.

Home educated children may also miss out on broader socialisation into friendship groups, but if the kind of children being home educated aren’t interested in this then I guess this is a net gain.

To my mind one of the biggest problems is inequality of opportunity – home education is really only available with the middle classes who have the resources to do this – if you’re a lower income family where both partners have to work full time home-ed just wouldn’t be an option!

This recent blog post by Schools Week suggests there has been a move towards parents pulling children out of school to avoid fines for poor attendance, and a move away from religious or cultural/ ideological motivations.

This could mean more low quality home education with schools left to fill in the gaps of anything the children miss out on.

Home Education – Relevance to A-Level Sociology

This material is mainly relevant to the education aspect of the A-level sociology course.

Home-ed is part of the postmodernisation of education, but TBH it is such a minor trend it is socially insignificant at time of writing, but interesting to observe nonetheless!

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