Many out-of-school pupils dread going back into a system they feel has already failed them. Mike Shaw reports
Vulnerable and sometimes violent children may return to the classroom if the money to educate them out of school is transferred to headteachers, say home tutors.
The plans by North Yorkshire County Council will also lead to job losses, tutors say. However heads welcome the change, saying it will allow more flexible teaching solutions and home tuition will still remain an option.
The closure of the education service for out-of-school pupils in the Ryedale, Scarborough and Whitby areas will cost the jobs of 39 teachers and two teaching assistants. Similar changes are expected in other authorities as headteachers take on responsibility for sharing excluded students.
All of the pound;650,000 funding for North Yorkshire's REOTAS (Reintegration or Education Other Than At School) service will be devolved to 13 secondary schools from January.
Christine Mark, a home tutor for three years, said she feared headteachers would cut back on home education. She said many of her pupils were terrified about returning to school and one had even threatened suicide.
"Some of the children can be violent, but we also deal with vulnerable children who have been bullied or simply can't cope in mainstream schools," she said.
Alan Combes, also a home tutor, resigned from the service last week. He said headteachers had promised that several teachers would be re-employed within the new system, but that it was obvious many would not.
Jean North, whose 15-year-old agoraphobic daughter is educated through North Yorkshire's service, said: "I've seen nothing to convince me that children who have been victims of bullying or abuse, or who have suffered from illness or bereavement, will not be further damaged by being dumped back into a system that has already failed them."
Roger Cannon, head of St Augustine's Catholic school in Scarborough, said:
"We are going to put the learners' needs first. We have identified three Year 11 students who are not in school for various reasons and will arrange for two to be taught in a satellite classroom and the third at home."
Mr Cannon said the changes would make heads take greater responsibility for excluded pupils, even though it would damage their schools' performance in exams as these students would now be included in their results.
North Yorkshire council said that consultation was ongoing.
'RETURNING TO SCHOOL TERRIFIES STUDENTS'
Home tutor Christine Mark says: "Most of the children I have taught have been incredibly damaged.
"The youngest was a six-year-old who, the first time I met him, barricaded himself in his bedroom and later had a temper tantrum so severe he kicked in a door. He is now calm and attends his local primary school full-time, where he is making excellent progress.
"Another child attacked me so aggressively that I will carry the physical scars all my life.
"The student I've worked with for the longest time was assigned to me in May 2002, when he was 12. He refused to go back to school as he had been bullied incessantly.
"When I first met him he had not left his house for months. He had not even been into the garden and could not look directly at me. Since then, he has blossomed and was hoping to take GCSEs next year.
"But, because of the closure of the home education service, he has been told that he must return to school in January. The thought terrifies him."