Somerset

Somerset home schooling parents angry at 'brutal' survey

There are 915 school-age children in Somerset being home educated
Image caption There are 915 school-age children in Somerset being home educated, up more than 50% since 2015

Parents who teach their children at home have accused a council of asking them "brutal" questions in a survey.

Somerset County Council has sent a questionnaire to "better understand why parents are making this choice". It denied the questions were brutal.

But the home educators said the survey reflected a "pointless, damaging obsession".

It comes as figures show the number of children taught at home in the county increased by 50% since 2015.

Parents of more than 900 home-educated children received the survey from Somerset County Council last month.

Image caption One of the questions in the survey asked if home educators could deal with child exploitation

One question in the survey asked home educators whether they felt confident they had the knowledge and understanding about child exploitation and radicalisation risks.

It went on to ask parents how they ensured people who came into contact with their children were "appropriately checked", such as through Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) tests.

Caroline Ellis, who is also a coordinator for the Taunton Home Education group, said there had been a "generally negative reaction" to the survey.

"The council seems obsessed with the reasons for why we choose to home educate, and that we are 'problematic," she said.

Ms Ellis said the survey ended up being a "pointless, wasteful, damaging obsession with 'knowing where children are', as if just knowing where they are means they are automatically safe".

Image caption Dave Farrow, education manager at Somerset County Council, wants to know 'what we can do to provide better support'

There are 915 school-age children in Somerset being home educated, with the increase mirroring a rapid rise across the country.

Somerset County Council said it wanted to know "what we can do to provide better support to those that need it".

"There are parents out there though who may feel they have no choice but to home educate because the education system doesn't meet the needs of their children, and that's what we need to understand," said Dave Farrow, education manager at the county council.

"We do not accept the questions are brutal - they are to allow us to understand home educating parents better."

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