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Number of homeschooled children in Kent doubles in seven years

The number of children getting their education at home has doubled in the last seven years, new figures show.

A Freedom of Information request by KentOnline shows the numbers not attending a school rose from 1,083 in 2012 to 2,399 this year.

Some parents choose this schooling method for the freedom and individuality it provides but some say they have no other option.

The number of children being home schooled in Kent as has more than doubled in seven years
The number of children being home schooled in Kent as has more than doubled in seven years

Limited spaces in schools and delayed diagnoses for conditions such as autism are forcing many children with special educational needs out of mainstream education.

The figures also reveal, as of January 2018, 227,898 were in school.

The homeschooling numbers cover those who have been withdrawn from schools, including academies, not children who have never attended.

One such family hidden from the numbers is Catherine Halliday, 31 and her four-year-old son, Maxwell.

He has multiple conditions including ADHD, a respiratory condition called laryngomalacia, autism and hearing loss and is taught at home.

He was meant to start school in September and the family had hoped to send him to Meadowfield School in Sittingbourne which teaches those with complex needs. Miss Halliday said after a year-long assessment he was rejected by KCC from going to a school catering for children with special educational needs.

Catherine Halliday and son, Maxwell
Catherine Halliday and son, Maxwell

However Maxwell has an Educational Care Health Plan providing evidence of extra support being needed.

And the family have been told the waiting list for such a school is one year.

Miss Halliday, of Alma Road, Sheerness, said: “He gets the highest disability living allowance but he still cannot get a space in a special needs school.”

An appeal on the decision was lodged in January and the family is still waiting for a response.

Local authorities are not obliged by law to offer any assistance to home-educated children, and so no help has been given to the family by KCC.

“It is hard - when your child has specific needs you cannot just google how to teach them..." - Catherine Halliday

Miss Halliday said she has developed a very personalised teaching style, including lots of singing and sign language.

She added: “It is hard - when your child has specific needs you cannot just google how to teach them. Luckily I did work experience in a school to get a qualification otherwise I’d have zero clue what to do.”

Maxwell’s twin brother, Alfie and sister, Tiffany, seven, are both at St Edward’s Catholic Primary School in New Road. The two have numerous disabilities but are able to be in school with additional support.

Maxwells’s situation may be improved with plans for a new special free school on the former Danley School site on Sheppey. Currently there is no special educational needs school on the island.

Roger Gough, KCC’s cabinet member for children, young people and education, said: “This will give pupils with special needs access in their local community, enhancing their opportunities to develop social links and become more independent.”

Peter Read
Peter Read

Education commentator Peter Read said: “About 80% of Kent’s homeschooled children have not chosen this route but have been expelled or forced out of education for a number of different reasons.

“The school situation for children with special needs is a massive issue - they make up 22% of homeschooled children - it is certainly not an unusual situation.”

Ben Wallace from Dartford was drawn to home-education for his six-year-old daughter, Button, for different reasons.

He said: “We were concerned about how much Christianity has been sidelined in mainstream schools and that children are being made to do homework so young and there is a lot of exam pressure.

“I also really feel that success in a subject is so tied in to how well a student engages with their teacher.

“However, we did not rush into the decision.”

He added: “I would say there are two very distinct groups of home-educators. Firstly, those who choose to home-educate and then those who are pushed into it through off-rolling or bullying. These poor parents just want to help their children but can be ill prepared.”

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