Portsmouth school using home education ‘as cover to banish problem pupils’

ROW Charter Academy has been criticised for the high number of pupils it is allowing to be home schooled
ROW Charter Academy has been criticised for the high number of pupils it is allowing to be home schooled
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PORTSMOUTH’S only academy has been accused of using home schooling as a way of getting difficult pupils off its books.

Charter Academy has let nine students be taught at home between September 2009 and December 2011, according to city council statistics.

This is more than double the number of other city schools.

Heads across the city say the academy has been using home education as a ‘cover’ for getting rid of problem students – an accusation Charter strongly denies.

Mike Smith, the chair of Portsmouth’s secondary heads, said: ‘We’re all shocked and appalled by what’s gone on.

‘Home schooling is not something heads would approve of.

‘The vast majority of parents aren’t qualified or don’t have the necessary knowledge and expertise to home educate their children.

‘Of course there are cases of elective home education being carried out by qualified parents, some teachers or with degrees, who believe the state system is the wrong way to bring up their children, but that’s a different matter.

‘That’s not what we’re talking about where Charter is concerned.

‘Most of the parents work or aren’t able to teach English, maths, the sciences, so they leave their children at home watching TV.

‘From my own experience and anecdotally from other schools in the city, these are children who have been struggling at school and are not in any way being home educated.

‘I don’t believe what is happening here is home education.

‘It’s removal from school.’

The News revealed last year how Charter had opted out of accepting ‘managed moves’ – an agreement between schools to take on problem students and give them a ‘fresh start’.

The academy, which took over failing St Luke’s in September 2009, defended their stance claiming they had taken a disproportionately high number of problem students from neighbouring schools.

But out of the nine students who left Charter to be home educated, five are now on roll in a city school and a sixth is at college.

ARK, Charter’s sponsors, disputed the city council figures.

It said its records showed that between September 2009 and September 2011 there were five pupils who left to be home educated.

Spokeswoman Lesley Smith said: ‘In most cases, the school argued strongly with the parents against home educating, but we had two girls who left because their babies were about to be born.

‘We also had a child whose family said they were moving to Sweden and six months later they were placed in another school. That’s beyond our control.’

She added that Charter had almost double the number of hard to place children who ‘quite often’ choose home schooling instead of moving to another school.

In Portsmouth there are currently 76 pupils who are registered as being home educated.