350 Walsall schoolchildren still being home educated due to coronavirus

Hundreds of Walsall schoolchildren are still being taught at home by their parents due to coronavirus.

Around 350 youngsters are having elective home education with parents still anxious about mixing in large groups, members of Walsall Council’s education overview and scrutiny committee were told.

Councillor Chris Towe, portfolio holder for education and skills, also revealed that – as of last week – a total of 19 members of staff and 77 pupils across 26 schools were off sick with Covid.

At the height of the pandemic, officers said 450 children were being taught at home but around 70 of them have since gone back to the classroom.

Rob Thomas, head of access, said additional staff had been employed to liaise with parents electing to home educate and said it was positive the numbers have reduced.

He said: “We did see a spike in electively home educated children during the pandemic period, anxiety and concern around mixing in larger groups.

“We secured some Covid funding to employ additional staff to speak with parents and encourage them back into school.

“It is pleasing to note there has been a number of children who came out during the pandemic who have now returned to school on a full time basis and numbers have started to reduce in elective home education.

“It was 450 at the spike and we are now down to 350 so around 100 have left the system because they’ve become non-compulsory school age in Year 11 but also around 70 have returned to school so I think that’s a positive step for education in Walsall.”

Sharon Kelly, director of access and inclusion, added officers have conversations with parents who wish to home educate their children to ensure they realise the “responsibility, accountability and expectations” they are taking on.

She said if it’s a ‘positive’ choice then families are supported.

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