The number of children registering for home-education in the UK rose by 75 percent in the first eight months of this school year, according to an investigation by the BBC.
The broadcaster received Freedom of Information responses from 153 of the 205 county councils and unitary authorities in Great Britain, and all of Northern Ireland, which submitted results as a whole.
It found that in northwest England numbers were 92 percent up on the previous two-year average.
Increasing numbers of families have switched to home-educating their children full-time amid lockdowns, removing them from the school register and notifying the local council, the BBC found.
More than 40,000 pupils were formally taken out of school in the UK between September 2020—when schools fully reopened—and April 2021, compared with an average of 23,000 over the previous two years, the figures suggest.
Some parents and councils told the BBC the increase is down to “COVID anxiety.”
In December, an Ofsted report found the number of children being home-schooled had risen during the current school year.
Almost three-fifths of schools told inspectors they had at least one pupil whose parents had removed them from school to be home-educated since the start of the autumn term.
School leaders said some parents have told them they only want to home-educate temporarily and that their children would return once “the pandemic is over.”
There was a 75.6 percent rise in home-education between September 2020 and April 2021, compared with the averages for the same school terms over the previous two school years, the BBC figures suggest.
Every nation and region of the UK saw at least a 50 percent rise, based on the councils that responded. For some, the rate was much higher.
The figures from 153 councils do not account for children taken off the register after the end of April 2021, or who have since returned to the classroom.
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We support parents who want to educate their children at home. However, now more than ever, it is absolutely vital that any decision to home-educate is made with the child’s best interests at the forefront of parents’ minds.
“We remain committed to a registration system for children not in school, which will help local authorities undertake their existing duties and help safeguard all children who are in scope.
“Further details on the register will be set out in the government response to the consultation, which we will publish in due course.”
By Eleanor Busby