The number of children registering for home education has risen by 75 per cent in the past school year, amid concerns that parents could scupper catch-up efforts.
More than 40,000 pupils were formally taken out of school in the UK between September 2020 and April 2021, compared with an average of 23,000 over the previous two years.
Some parts of the country have seen a bigger increase than others, according to information obtained by the BBC under Freedom of Information laws.
In north-west England, which has seen particular disruption to schooling caused by high Covid rates, numbers were 92 per cent up on the previous two-year average.
Every nation and region of the UK saw at least a 50 per cent rise, based on the 153 councils that responded to requests for data.
Not all parents ‘equipped’ to be teachers
Earlier this month, the chief inspector of Ofsted warned that the rise in home schooling could “seriously derail” catch-up efforts since not every parent is “equipped” to be a teacher.
Amanda Spielman said that while many parents “gladly stepped back” from teaching duties when schools reopened, some have chosen to keep their children at home.
She said that a disproportionate number of the youngsters who have not returned to the classroom following lockdown have some kind of problem or need.
Ofsted published a report last autumn, which found that more than a third of schools saw an increase in children being home educated at the start of the academic year.
Headteachers reported that the rise in parents pulling their children out of school since the start of the new academic year is down to their “anxiety” about Covid-19.
However, the figures from councils show that the trend towards parents deciding to pull their children out of school to home educate them has escalated throughout the academic year.
Bolton Council, which has seen a 61 per cent rise in home schooling during the past academic year, said it was “mainly due to family concerns relating to Covid, particularly as Bolton had the highest rate of infection in the country for some time”.
The Department for Education says it introduced “robust protective measures” in schools, including regular Covid testing and keeping pupils in bubbles.
It said: “Although many parents provide a good standard of education, home education is never a decision that should be entered into lightly. Now more than ever, it is absolutely vital that any decision to home-educate is made with the child’s best interests at the forefront of parents’ minds.
“We remain committed to a registration system for children not in school and will provide further details in due course.”