ACT News

Canberra home schooled numbers soar

The number of Canberra children being educated at home has increased by more than 50 per cent in two years.

Parents' groups have said children being pulled out of school was a major factor in the surge. 

Home school families, rear from left Sue Gerrard from Dunlop with son A.J. Gerrard,10, and front, Suzannah Brough, 6 and ...
Home school families, rear from left Sue Gerrard from Dunlop with son A.J. Gerrard,10, and front, Suzannah Brough, 6 and mum Kim Brough from Duffy.  Photo: Photo by Jeffrey Chan

Home schooling is often assumed to be a choice made largely on religious grounds but a number of parents have described how their children's troubles at school led them to take the unexpected step of becoming home teachers. 

Kim and Paul Brough decided to remove their anxious 6-year-old Suzannah from school in April, after their daughter's separation fears and nightmares would not stop.

"There were tears, and the point at school where we'd have to get a couple of teachers to restrain her physically," Ms Brough said. 

"Within a couple of weeks [at home] we just had a different child."

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Ms Brough said Suzannah – who meets one or two days a week with other home-school families – had made more positive connections with children since being at home school. 

The family's two older children, James, 17, and Grace, 15, have always studied at school.

Suzannah is one of 198 students home schooled in the ACT, with 70 per cent of them aged 12 or younger.

The number is still tiny compared to the territory's more than 70,500 on-campus school students, but has risen by 52 per cent since February 2012, while the overall student population has risen by about 4 per cent. 

Home Education Network for Canberra and the Southern Tablelands secretary Sue Gerrard said about 60 per cent of inquiries in the last year had been from those with children who were struggling in school, whether with issues such as bullying or learning difficulties. 

Christian Home Education Conference member Kim Burnet said althoughChristians wanted to retain a faith influence and often avoid evolution teaching, 45 per cent of the conference families had put children in school before pulling them out. 

The mother of five is teaching four children at home, with her eldest – bullied before being pulled out of school in year 2 – returning to school in year 11 this year. 

"She's getting pretty much all As, some Bs, and is in the top five per cent of all her classes," Ms Burnet said. 

"My aim by year 10 is that they're [all] ready to go to college if they want to."

Education sociologist Professor Lawrence Sawa said home schooling made sense in a range of circumstances, but the downside was removing children from the usual socialisation.

The Australian National University academic said he considered it a safety net.  

"When all else fails, particularly in a case of a child who is bullied and harassed, and really suffering ... it can be an appropriate option," he said. 

Home educators are checked by ACT government reviewers periodically to ensure they are providing a quality education, but do not have to follow any set curriculum. 

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