Career Connect

With the number of young people educated at home rising by 77,500 since 2016, Career Connect has published a new report on the support home learners and the families need to access education and plan for their young people’s futures

The report, ‘Non-elective home education understanding the rise of reluctant home educators and potential support models for parents and young people’, focuses on families and carers who felt they had no other choice but to remove their child from school.

Career Connect worked in partnership with Capacity, an organisation specialising in innovation and reform of public and third sector services, on the report.

The team engaged with 52 individuals through a mix of surveys and individual interviews in four local areas where Career Connect are currently delivering services to young people who are Not In Education Employment or Training (NEET) or at risk of becoming NEET.

The number of young people being electively home educated in England is increasing, and rapidly so since the Covid pandemic.

In 2016, an estimated 37,500 young people were being home educated (ADSC, 2016). By 2018, this had risen to 58,000, and then further to an estimated 115,542 young people during the 2020/21 academic year (ADSC, 2021).

Career Connect’s research found multiple, connected reasons why families or carers withdraw young people from school. These included unmet emotional and mental health needs which continued attendance at school would exacerbate; struggles to ‘fit in’ academically or socially; the absence of flexible options for schooling and bespoke support, and avoidance of fines for non-attendance while remaining registered as attending school.

The research also found a range of substantial challenges faced by young people and parents or carers, when a child is withdrawn from school. These included the transition period from school to full-time home education, access to educational resources and the confidence of parents or carers to teach, the extra financial burden of home education including access to technology, and parents or carers coping with their own health and work challenges.

There was disappointment amongst some that distance learning opportunities have disappeared since the Covid pandemic.

Using the insights gained from the research, Career Connect worked with Capacity to identify several activities that they piloted with parents, carers and young people in 2022.

These included one-to-one or small group sessions/workshops with young people educated at home to map out pathways and deliver careers information, and the testing of bespoke social and educational activities and events as part of a Summer Programme for young people who are electively home educated.

Following the project, the researchers made the following recommendations:

• An immediate offer of support to families at the point of becoming electively home educated. This would enable young people and their parents to build trust and relationships with support services.
• Allocating a named advisor or key worker across all age groups.
• Creating opportunities to deliver support via remote methods.
• Peer mentoring and coaching for both parents and children.
• Using the connections that organisations such as Career Connect have with community partners to offer young people opportunities to improve their wellbeing.

Career Connect is now exploring further opportunities to develop services for young people and families undertaking elective home education, and further research in this area.

Gary Mundy, Director of Research and Evaluation at Career Connect said: “This is an initial study, but the results show a clear need for more support for families who have elected to remove their children from school. With numbers rising, it is even more important to have a model in place that supports that transition.

“This report focused on families who often felt that they had no other choice but to remove their child from school to improve their health and wellbeing, and were in need of support services.

“There are lots of connected factors that influence a parent or carer’s decision to take a child out of school, and of the parents and carers we spoke to for this study, this was not taken lightly – it may be referred to as elected home education, but often the parent or carer feels it is a necessity, and they do so reluctantly. Frequently families are in a state of crisis and significant emotional turmoil when making the decision for their child to become electively home educated.

“There is a sense that, while Local Authorities are doing their best, they are stretched, and the provision of elective home education resources has not kept pace with the growing numbers of young people being educated at home. School resources are limited, and schools face their own challenges in supporting the diverse needs of the children they serve.

“As a charity and a delivery organisation, our focus is on supporting the young people and their families who need that help now. While long term policy change is key, we are focused on developing provision for young people in elected home education sooner rather than later. Using this research, we are now looking at ways we can shape provision that is scalable, adaptable and can support the increase in need.”

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