Parental anxiety about Covid-19 leads to rise in home schooling – Ofsted

More than one in three schools visited by Ofsted have reported a rise in children being home educated.

Anxiety among parents about Covid-19 safety appears to have driven the increase, according to Ofsted.

The watchdog’s findings are based on 121 pilot visits to schools across England last month.

Ofsted found that misinformation and myths – often from social media – about the different approaches taken to prevent transmission of the virus are causing confusion and parental anxiety.

This includes “fake news” about schools having to keep all doors open no matter what the weather.

Chief inspector Amanda Spielman said most schools reported “decent attendance figures”, but she added that parental anxiety over coronavirus remains an issue.

In a commentary published on Tuesday, she said: “Perhaps worryingly, over a third of the schools we visited for this report had noted more parents opting to home educate their children.

“Some parents will have made a positive choice, after enjoying their summer experience at home, but many leaders believed parents were concerned about the safety of their children.”

Ms Spielman added: “Leaders reported their frustrations at having to correct the myths that had taken hold with some parents, often fuelled by ‘fake news’ shared on social media.

“Myths can also grow and circulate among schools about what they ‘have’ to do, or not do: no singing; no swimming; all doors open, no matter the weather.

“Successfully rebutting these myths, which spread so easily, is hard.

“Like Japanese knotweed, myths have persistent roots – so a consolidation and simplification of government advice for schools would help bring clarity for teachers and parents alike as we head towards the winter.”

A Department for Education (DfE) spokesman said: “Schools are overwhelmingly saying they have the plans in place to support pupils, and help them catch up at pace where that is needed.

“Parents can be reassured further interventions, such as individual tutoring through the Department’s £1 billion Covid catch up fund, will be coming soon for those children who need further support.

“Ofsted’s programme of visits is already proving its value to schools, as they work to return to a full, normal curriculum no later than the summer term, and ensure no pupils lose out as a result of coronavirus.”