School exclusions plummet during lockdown as home education spikes

Schools could reopen at the beginning of June. Picture: CORBIS

Hackney school exclusions have decreased in Hackney while home-schooling has increased. - Credit: � Royalty-Free/CORBIS

School exclusions in Hackney have plummeted over the past year while the number of families opting to home-educate their children has jumped, according to new data.

The disproportionate representation of children from Black and Traveller ethnic backgrounds in the figures paints a “damning” picture, according to Cllr Sophie Conway, chair of the children and young people’s scrutiny commission.

In an update from Hackney Education, the commission was told that since September 2019 there have been 42 permanent exclusions from local secondary schools and none from primary schools. 

Of that number, 40 took place in the autumn and spring terms of 2019/20, and two in the spring of 2020. Half of the pupils excluded came from a Black ethnic background.
Meanwhile, the borough saw a 268 per cent increase in elective home education (EHE) over attendance at school between March 2019 and December 2020, with the greatest increase taking place after schools reopened in September 2020. 

At the peak in October 2020, there were 287 children being educated at home, up from 128 in the same month a year earlier.

With most parents citing Covid-19 as the reason for their decision, a report by wellbeing and education safeguarding boss Chris Roberts noted that “the growth in numbers, particularly for those from Black and Traveller ethnic backgrounds, aligns with anecdotal evidence of higher levels of concerns in relation to Covid-19 amongst these communities”.
Cllr Conway said that it was encouraging to hear officers are working with families on the issues, but stated:  “We are talking about Black children, children from Travelling backgrounds, who are overrepresented, not just in exclusion statistics, but now also in the increase in EHE, but also in terms of poor attainment. 
“It does not paint a particularly good picture."

Sophie Conway won 75 per cent of the Hackney Central vote

Cllr Sophie Conway, chair of the children and young people’s scrutiny commission.   - Credit: Archant

Roberts pointed to the Town Hall’s Young Black Men project, interventions around raising awareness of unconscious bias, development of a more inclusive curriculum, and the council’s No Year 7 Exclusions pilot programme.
The education officer stressed that tackling uneven outcomes is “very much a live issue” for his team.