Island MP Bob Seely and Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Donna Jones have raised concerns with Education Secretary, Gillian Keegan, about the significant rise in electively home-educated (EHE) students on the Isle of Wight and the measures in place to ensure that all students are receiving a suitable education.
While the number of EHE students on the Island has risen by 38 per cent since 2018 - which is broadly in line with the rest of the country (40 per cent) – the number of children being home-schooled on the Island is over three times the England average (2.92 and 0.91 per cent respectively). Latest figures show there are approximately 520 EHE students on the Island.
Figures also show that, nationally, there has been a 67 per cent rise in the overall absence rate in schools from 4.5 per cent pre-pandemic to 7.5 per cent in 2022/23.
In a joint letter to Gillian Keegan, Bob Seely and Donna Jones said: “Whilst we respect the choice of some parents to home educate, we question the very sharp rise in EHE students and school absence following the Covid-19 pandemic.
“… local authorities are obliged to make enquiries to ensure that children are receiving a suitable education, there is no obligation for parents to register or inform their local authority about home education.”
They added: “As you will know, there are no legal requirements for EHE students to acquire qualifications, learn the National Curriculum, or have their progress formally assessed. As such, monitoring the progress of the significant number of new EHE children relies heavily on local authorities’ diligence.”
The Island’s MP and PCC went on to raise concerns about the life chances of some EHE students who may not be receiving a suitable education.
“Not receiving a good education is a permanent blight on the lives of young people and the social cohesion of our communities.
“Persistently absent pupils who lack the support they need are thought to be three times more likely to commit an offence by age 17 than those who are fully attending school.”
Mr Seely added: “We need to understand why some Islanders are opting to take their children out of mainstream education and seek assurances that they are not being forgotten by the local education authority. I’ll be writing to councillors about my concerns.”
Ms Jones said: “I am concerned that some home educated children could be at a greater risk of being exploited, involved in anti-social behaviour, or committing crime.
“We need to understand why parents are taking their children out of school and whether, having made that choice, they are being adequately supported.”
The MP and PCC have requested a meeting with the Secretary of State to discuss the matter.