'Just horrendous' rise in the number of Hartlepool pupils receiving home education
The number of pupils who received home education in Hartlepool – which was 55 in October 2019 – has risen to 186 as of November 14 this year.
Council officers warned the number looks set to increase further with 16 more children in Hartlepool commencing homeschooling since the start of October and 99 since the start of 2023.
A report which went before the latest children’ services committee noted the top reason cited for elective home education was parental choice, accounting for 57 pupils.
This was followed by general dissatisfaction with school, with 32, while health, including mental health, accounted for 28.
Emma Rutherford, executive head teacher for vulnerable pupils at the council, said, although Covid-19 “didn’t help,” numbers were already rising before the pandemic and that it is a similar picture nationwide.
She said: “If there are issues, we work with the school to do everything to support the child to remain in the school in the first place.
“Parents directly home educating is a huge responsibility to take, particularly when you start getting to years 10 and 11 and you have to pay for exams and all sorts of things.
“It absolutely is a complex picture, we have some parents who provide an unbelievable education for their children.
"But she added: “We also have parents who don’t do that and we know that we don’t have evidence that education is taking place.”
Council officers said there are 26 children who they do not have sufficient information on to clarify if they are receiving a “suitable” education and that investigations into these cases will continue.
Meanwhile, there are 34 children where parents will only communicate with the council via writing and “increasing numbers” state they will not comply with bi-annual engagement carried out by the local authority.
Councillors on the committee noted the rising numbers were “really concerning”.
Councillor Brenda Harrison said: “I think that the vast majority of schools in the town are affected by it in some way.
“There’s always been these cases, but the numbers are just horrendous and I really do worry for the future of their education and their lives and what we can do to try and prevent this.”