GCSE pass for boy, aged 12, as hundreds in Doncaster opt out of conventional schools to learn at home

He may be only aged 12 - but Doncaster youngster Sam Rees has already passed his first GCSE and is one of a growing band turning their back on conventional education in the borough.

His story comes as it emerged that nearly 500 children are now educated at home rather than in a school in Doncaster, with the number more than doubling in five years.

Sam Rees, of Finningley, Doncaster has passed his first GCSE aged 12 after being taken out of mainstream school and home educated.  Picture: Scott Merrylees

Sam Rees, of Finningley, Doncaster has passed his first GCSE aged 12 after being taken out of mainstream school and home educated. Picture: Scott Merrylees

Sam passed the landmark exam this summer after having been taken out of convention school to be taught at home after his experience of the mainstream education system left him ill.

Figures from Doncaster Council reveal he is one of hundreds who have been taken out of conventional schooling to be taught at home.

In 2012/13 the borough had 205 youngsters registered as being taught at home. But this month it has shot up to 461.

A whole mutual support network is now running in the borough.

Amanda Rees with son Sam, who is being home educated and has passed a GCSE aged 12

Amanda Rees with son Sam, who is being home educated and has passed a GCSE aged 12

Doncaster Council says it provides support to parents if they wish to home school their child.

Sam, of Blenheim Drive, Finningley, struggled to settle in school. He was unhappy at his primary school, and then finally begged not to have to go to school after moving to Hayfield School, half way through his first year there.

With her son miserable and poorly, mum Amanda finally made the decision to take him away and home school him last year. And just over a year on, she says she is delighted with the decision that she made.

From his early days at primary school, Sam was unhappy. As he got older, he developed illnesses including asthma, to the extent he had to take steroids as a preventative measure. He was physically sick over the prospect of going to school.

Amanda said: "He literally felt ill as soon as he was going through the gate.

"It was the February half time in 2017 when he left. We made a lot of rules, and took some time to get into a routine where everyone was happy.

"When Sam was at school, he had a lot of sick time. He was at the doctors constantly, and it meant he was in the bottom sets. He got diagnosed with asthma and we were often in touch with the out of hours doctors.

"But after starting home schooling, the asthma went."

She said there was never any criticism of Sam's attitude, with reports describing him as a vuled member of the class. But there were concerns over his attendance as a result of his sickness.

Sam said: "I hated that everyone had to be the same, no one could be different from the next person.

"I used to get bullied quite a lot. Other children bullied me about the shape of my forehead. But being home schooled boosted my self confidence and was possibly the best decision ever made.

Amanda said there was little support available when she first took Sam out of school. She felt that the attitude was that if you don't want your child in school, then you must find your own alternative.

But Sam settled into a routine which saw him received teaching from him mum as well as a number of individual professional tutors, who teach him maths, science, history, German and English. His mum helps him with the homework.

He has a desk set up at home.

It was his English teacher who suggested he should take his GCSE this year, on the basis of the standard of his work compared to that of other children aged 16.

So he was booked into to site the international version of the exam, at XP School, at Doncaster Carr.

He sat the Cambridge Assessment International Education IGCSE exam in May, and was told this week he had achieved a grade C.

"I'm really happy to have passed," said Sam, who is looking to take maths and history GSCEs next year.

The family is also in touch with a Doncaster Homes Education Support group, which organises activities for home schooled children.

Sam is still in touch with school friends and sees them outside school hours.

"The first few months were scary," said Amanda. "I feared his education may take a hit, but now I think his education is better than he got in school, and he is happier and healthier than he was at school. I'm a private chiropodist so I can work from home and supervise Sam. For us, it works out."

The plan is for Sam to return to school for sixth form, when the family believes schooling will be more grown up.

The family has the cost of the tutors to meet, which works out at around £100 a week. But Amanda says some of that in offset in other savings. They have saved £1,000 in the cost of holidays by taking them outside the conventional holiday period, and also save around £20 a week in transport costs, as well as saving money on school meals.

Official advice

Doncaster Council has a 12 page leaflet for parents who decide to take their children out of school to educate them themselves.

It outlines the legal requirements for home education and warns parents that if they are told a child is not being properly educated at home they will investigate and take action if necessary.

The authority employs Elective Home Education officers, and says there are many different reasons why families home educate.

It states some families prefer to home educate for religious or cultural reasons, and some just because they do not want their child to be part of a school system.

Its leaflet to parents adds: “If you have decided to EHE (elective home educate) your child then you do have a legal duty to ensure that your child receives an effective and suitable education. 

“We ask Home Educators to provide us with information about the type of education that will be offered.

It adds: “Sometimes we receive information, that makes it appear that parents are not providing a suitable education, obviously we have to check this information. The first thing we do is simply conduct informal enquiries by asking you - so that we can satisfy our own legal requirements. This type of enquiry is not the same as a formal notice... and is not necessarily a precursor for formal procedures. Parents are under no duty to respond to such enquiries, but we hope you will. Obviously we can’t ‘forget about it’ or put the file to the bottom of the pile if we don’t get any answer - we have to follow up and sometimes of course we do have to take further steps to ensure that a child receives a suitable education, but this would be our last resort.”

Home education in numbers

Pupils registered witrh Doncaster Council as home educated

Current figure:461

August 2015/16: 267 
August 2014/15  237 
August 2013/14  216 
August 2012/13  205