The families who liked home-schooling so much they will continue to home educate when schools reopen

  • By ITV News Multimedia Producer Kavita Patel and Content Producer Alex Binley

Thousands of children have been home-schooled by their parents since classrooms across the nation first closed in March at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

ITV News has spoken to families who have liked home-schooling so much they are going to continue when schools reopen in the coming days.

A teaching assistant in Hampshire, who is about to quit her job so that she can educate her child at home, has spoken to ITV News anonymously.

She wants to continue to home-school her daughter, as she believes it's in her best interests, and it isn't because of Covid-19.

Her six-year-old daughter has special educational needs (SEN) and the lockdown period allowed her to open up to her about the struggles she has faced in school, her mother said.

"During lockdown, she was telling us she was having sensory problems, she really struggled with the loud noises and peer pressure in a classroom environment."

She added: "It took my child having six months of home-schooling during lockdown to find out what is happening and that it has been going on at school for a year and we've found it's not uncommon."

The teaching assistant's six-year-old has been learning more about gardening, the Earth's core and how to make a picnic. Credit: Family handout

When asked about her reasoning for continuing with home-schooling, she said: "It's down to personal stance, it's not to do with Covid, you've got to do it for the right reasons, if you're doing it for Covid, you're probably not home educating for the right reasons."

She said home-schooling has always interested her and has found the whole experience "absolutely normal".

She added that "the biggest thing I think is that my time was spent making so many resources, if not working 7am-7pm in a school, and the other day I got some play-doh and we learnt about the earth's core, and it was hands-on and more practical - something you can't get in a classroom environment".

She continued that her daughter "was a lot more relaxed, better on a one-to-one basis as there were no alarming, no loud noises and she really thrives in this environment".

"With home educating she's grown in confidence, a lot more and is able to talk a lot more," she added.

When asked about the social aspect of home schooling she said: "I was worried at first but we've met up with children more recently and it's eased all my worries, I'm not concerned about this at all, I don't envy the teachers going back at all, from a mum's point of view I haven't had any information about the buses for special needs children."

"We've had one phone call in six months and my child is on the SEN list which is quite shocking." When asked how long she would continue homeschooling, she said: "We're new to home educating and I think again you're led by the child, I'd like to think that we'll go as far as the child."

"We're extremely led by her, I would like to think she will go on to secondary. I don't think I have the knowledge to teach secondary."

How can you home-school in England?

Credit: PA

Parents are able to deregister their child or children from school if they are able to teach from home, either full-time or part-time.

If your child is currently at school, parents can tell the school they plan to educate them at home.

However, if your child has a School Attendance Order, which is when the local council thinks your child is not getting an education, you will have to seek permission from your council before starting home education.

How does home education work with the national curriculum and assessments?

You must make sure your child receives a full-time education from the age of five, but you do not have to follow the national curriculum.

While the law states children have a legal and moral right to a "full-time and age appropriate" education, the definition of this is not laid out with details of time structures or even what constitutes "age appropriate".

The responsibility of a child's education is legally down to the parent(s).

But under section 436A of the Education Act 1996, local authorities have a duty to make arrangements to identify children in their area who are not receiving a suitable education, whether in or out of school.

For home-educated children who have studied for a public exam such as GCSEs or A-levels either independently or through a private tutor, it is usually the pupil's own responsibility to find an exam centre, register for the exam, find a qualified person to assess coursework, and enter examinations.

There will also be exam entry fees to be paid to the examining board, which usually cost around £25 for most GCSEs and around £12 for each single A level module or unit.

What support materials are available to home-schooled families?

There are several home-school learning groups on social media, including Facebook, where parents are able to ask questions to other parents who home-school and often people share home-school learning activities and resources.

Private tutors often advertise their prices and availability for one-to-one tutoring on the national curriculum which many parents also opt for.

Mum-of-three Sarah White started home-educating in Somerset when the lockdown began in March.

She said: "It's been in the back of my mind for years before that. It's something I have always wanted to do."

The 29-year-old, who runs a blog Whimsical Mumblings, told ITV News her children have "really blossomed" during the lockdown through home education.

Sarah White has been home schooling her children since March this year. Credit: Sarah White/Whimsical Mumblings

Mrs White said: "I completely felt like I was in my element when our home educating experience began, it took a few weeks to really figure out what worked best for us and then something just clicked and we all really enjoyed the experience."

"I've been teaching my eldest two all sorts of things over the past few months from dinosaurs to thunderstorms, we've been doing a lot of creative activities as well as following the curriculum for subjects like English and Maths."

Sarah White has said her children have really 'blossomed' through home education. Credit: Family handout

When asked about how her children have dealt with the change of learning environment, Mrs White said: "My six-year-old girl is very confident, friendly and chatty, I definitely feel like homeschooling will benefit her as she will get that one on one attention, and less distractions that in a school environment."

"My five-year-old boy has just finished reception. He's also very kind and friendly, he makes friends easily because he's so caring, but he also struggles with distractions, so again being able to teach him one on one is ideal for him."

Mrs White added: "We've all really enjoyed the experience and my two have really blossomed and learnt so much."

"I have just received the confirmation of removing my five and six-year-old from school, I was so nervous to send the initial letter, then awaiting a response, it all felt so final."

"When I did receive a response it was like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders and we could really begin our homeschooling journey properly, our way. I'm very proud of our decision, and really excited to get started!"

"I feel like this decision was made when I could physically see just how much my children were learning and taking in."

"I loved teaching them, and they loved learning from me, and be able to be in their home environment to do so."

She added that "the current pandemic obviously has caused concerns in our house, I think it was the final nudge we needed to start homeschooling full time, but that absolutely wasn't the main reason we made that choice".

Mrs White said: "I will ensure my children have enough social contact with other children, so that won't be an issue. Right now, we're just doing what is best for us. I'll start off by planning to homeschool for a year or two, and then we will re-evaluate our situation."

Mum-of-three Gemma Duxbury, from Lancashire, said the decision to continue homeschooling when schools reopen has been "the best move" for her family.

The 34-year-old, who's a canine behaviourist business owner, told ITV News: "We have been home schooling since the start of lockdown but have talked about it for over a year. It has been the best move for our family."

Gemma Duxbury says her two youngest boys have improved lots and their confidence has grown through home-schooling. Credit: Family Handout

She added: "My two youngest boys have improved lots and their confidence has grown too. They've become more independent in their work and we love the fact that we can school at any part of the day."

When asked about what impact home-schooling has had on the family, Mrs Duxbury said: "Cooper is nine-years-old and is registered visually impaired.

"He is a fun loving boy, who adores animals and computers. Cooper has improved in so many ways since home-schooling."

She added: "I have a different child altogether with him. He's more engaging in family life, we've found a love for cooking together. It's like his pressures and anxiety have gone and he's such a joy to be around."

Gemma Duxbury is home-schooling Blaine who is four-years-old and Cooper who's nine. Credit: Family Handout

Mrs Duxbury also said that the Covid-19 pandemic has also played a part in home-schooling.

"Me and their dad work together to teach them on a daily basis. I would say the Covid pandemic has played a part too."

"I would not feel happy with Cooper being placed in a classroom where distance needs to be maintained and him already having sight issues. I think mentally the change would of been detrimental to him."

She added: "Blaine would not of coped. He needs to be loved and feel secure and he wouldn't of been able to get that. Also, he is four-years-old and wants to learn through play, having items restricted in schools makes me feel uneasy on how they can achieve this in reception years."

Mrs Duxbury also said their children adhere to the national curriculum through a private tutor.

She said: "I have no plans to put my children back into the education system. I hire a private tutor who comes every week to keep the boys on track with their curriculum.

"Home-schooling has changed our lives beyond belief. The relationship between us all has grown from strength to strength. There are no more anxiety attacks from my nine-year-old."