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Devon County Council noted that home education used to be primarily a lifestyle choice, but lately, mental health concerns have been a significant factor in this growing trend.

A mother cited various reasons, including Covid-19 lockdowns, mental health challenges, and school behavioral policies, as contributing to her decision for home education.

Miles Davis, BBC Devon's Political Reporter, reported that the number of children receiving home education has soared in the past five years. In the area governed by Devon County Council, a record-breaking 2,951 children received home education during the 2022/23 academic year, an increase of 449 from the prior academic year.

One parent spoke to the BBC about the multiple reasons behind choosing home education, attributing the decision to the Covid-19 pandemic, mental health concerns, and school behavioral policies.

Historically, Devon County Council noted that parents often chose home education for lifestyle reasons. However, the primary reason now appears to be mental health challenges.

Oliver, a 14-year-old who began home education in September, highlighted the personalized learning experience: "In regular school, it's all about everyone needing to fit the same shoe. In home schooling, you get to make more decisions about what happens to you."

His mother, Sharon, spoke about Oliver's challenges at secondary school, emphasizing his struggle with anxiety and discomfort in the school environment. Home education provided them the flexibility for a child-led education based on Oliver's interests.

Devon's home education community has seen a rise in participation, evident in the numbers. In the Plymouth area, numbers surged from 478 in 2018/19 to 734 in 2022/23. Similarly, in Torbay, the figures rose from 189 in October 2019 to 400 in October 2023.

Ruth MacLaren, who runs science classes for home-educated children, shared her experience, emphasizing practical science lessons as a hands-on learning opportunity outside the traditional school environment. Elliot, a 12-year-old student attending these science classes, highlighted the comfort and freedom of learning at his own pace, feeling more secure in a smaller friend group.

Petroc, a higher education college in Devon, has observed an increasing number of home-educated children enrolling for post-16 education. Jason Jones, the college's deputy principal, cited various reasons driving parents to opt for home education, including social, emotional, and mental health concerns.

The Devon County Council acknowledged the educational disruption caused by the pandemic, leading many children to struggle with readjusting to school environments. A dedicated team at the council aims to facilitate an easy and swift return to school for those parents seeking it. Photo by Peter Merholz from Berkeley, CA, United States, Wikimedia commons.