It’s troubling that, over the last six years, the number of children being home-schooled in Sheffield has more than doubled. In 2013/14, 268 children were educated from home but that figure has steadily risen and now stands at 600 children.
Of course, some families prefer home-schooling but a lack of support for pupils with special educational needs (SEN) is also driving children out of schools. I have spoken to a number of local parents whose children have been out of school for months and even years, not out of choice, but because there is not enough suitable SEN provision available in Sheffield.
Government cuts have resulted in the loss of teaching assistants, a narrower curriculum, and bigger class sizes, which makes mainstream education less manageable for children with SEN. I have had reports of parents visiting schools and being explicitly told: this is not the school for your child if he has autism.
As well as the emotional distress that this situation causes families, it can also cause financial problems as parents are forced to give up work to home-school their children.
It is the Government’s responsibility to ensure that we have the support structures in place to ensure that children with SEN can stay in school and get the best possible education. I will continue to push Ministers to properly fund SEN provision, to reform Ofsted so it places a higher priority on inclusion, to train teachers on SEN, and for the rights of families and children to be much clearer.