Stress and anxiety factors in homeschool numbers rising

There are 1,483 children being taught at home, an increase of 5%, Tusla figures show

Photograph: iStock

Photograph: iStock

 

Increasing levels of stress and anxiety in children and adolescents is one of the main factors behind the rising number of children being educated at home, the Child and Family Agency, Tusla, has said.

There are currently 1,483 children being homeschooled, up from 1,410 in 2018 and 1,377 in 2017, an increase of 5 per cent since last year, and up 7 per cent since 2017, according to figures from Tusla.

The number reached its highest-ever level in August of this year at 1,501, but has since dropped as some children chose to attend mainstream school once the new term began in September.

There are also an additional 490 children with special education needs in receipt of home tuition, which is when a tutor teaches a child at home because there is not an appropriate school place in mainstream facilities.

A spokeswoman for Tusla said the rising figures are due to various factors including a parent’s belief that homeschooling is preferable, increased awareness about the option, and changing family circumstances. She also attributed the rise to an “increase in children presenting with mental-health concerns such as anxiety and panic attacks, resulting in school refusal”.

Jigsaw, a charity for youth mental health, said levels of depression and anxiety in adolescents has increased over recent years, adding that school is a contributing factor.

According to the charity’s national study of youth mental health, 72 per cent of adolescents reported school being the biggest stressor, followed by exams at 65 per cent and homework at 44 per cent.

Opt out

The Home Education Network (Hen), a voluntary organisation supporting people who opt out of mainstream schooling, said another reason behind the rise is because the “school system isn’t for everyone”.

“Every family makes their own decision based on the needs of their children individually and you will sometimes find families with a child in a mainstream school and another home educating,” a spokeswoman for the organisation said.

“Children who home educate develop in an open explorative environment that may not be as available to them through traditional schooling.”

To monitor homeschooling, Tusla carries out assessments to ensure that a certain minimum education is being provided and to maintain a register of children being educated in places other than a recognised school.

If the assessment determines that the education being proposed or being provided does not meet a certain minimum standard, then Tusla will refer the case to the Education and Welfare Service.

Between 2004 and September 2019, there were 101 assessments during which it was determined that a child’s education was not meeting the minimum standards.