A Caerphilly man who credits home tutoring with turning his life around has warned planned changes to the service could jeopardise other youngsters’ futures.

Tutors, too, have claimed the council’s plan to bring tuition services under schools’ control will damage the progress their pupils are making at home.

Callum Davies, 24, was unable to attend school during his teenage years because of bullying and anxiety.

“I had no way of going to school due to severe mental health issues,” he told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS). 

“I never felt safe, I suffered terribly at the hands of bullies… [and] with anxiety. Being in school gave me constant panic attacks.”

With his GCSEs on the horizon, Callum felt like his future was at risk. Attending school was out of the question – yet he had ground to make up in crucial skills like writing.

Fortunately, Callum was offered private tuition outside of school by a tutor who helped get his academic life back on track.

“[With a home tutor] I never felt I was in danger,” he said. “I had a space to really focus. I didn’t have other people who had no interest in learning, causing chaos in the background.”

Callum, now a graphic designer, said he “wouldn’t have been able to do my GCSEs” without that tutor’s support.

In the face of current plans to reform how home tutoring is provided in Caerphilly County Borough, he said it was imperative young people unable to go to school still had that offer of support.

“It’s all had a huge impact on my life,” he said. “I would have been in a terrible situation, financially and mentally.”

Callum added: “I know there are thousands of people out there [nationwide] in the same position as me. 

“Being told they have to go to school can almost feel like the end of the world. I feel that without home tutoring, I wouldn’t have had any future.”

Caerphilly Council recently approved plans to bring tuition under schools’ direct control – a move criticised by some of the tutors it employs or contracts, as well as two teaching unions.

The council argues it is more beneficial for pupils to be in the classroom, where there is a “consistent approach”, and points to exam results being lower for home-tutored young people under the current system.

But tutors claim they have been ignored during a consultation on the new system, and believe the pupils they support will suffer if they are brought back into school.

One tutor, Ceri Stowe, told the LDRS she had written to the council on behalf of several of her colleagues, urging decision-makers to rethink their plans.

In her letter, she said tutors had been “treated appallingly” and “not included” in the consultation process, adding that pupils and their families who currently use the home tuition service will suffer under the new system.

“The majority of families who receive home tuition are at breaking point having experienced many years of failings in the education system,” Mrs Stowe wrote. “Many do not understand their rights and have become accustomed to accepting whatever is offered as they are desperate for help. 

“Their lack of contact should not in any way be perceived as agreement to the changes, as us tutors on the frontline have been told how unhappy many of them are.”

For pupils, the bespoke nature of the current tuition process helped them get on with learning in a way which was right for them, Mrs Stowe argued.

“The pupil’s needs’ dictate the way in which the curriculum is delivered,” she explained. “It can take many visits before pupils are willing to engage in any way. Many are unable to maintain focus and show a clear negative physical response when returning to school is mentioned.”

Even if reintegration is possible, it could take “many months and can only happen because of the work done face-to-face at home”, Mrs Stowe said.

She added that schools were “poor at providing learning materials, and the majority of tutors follow the national curriculum rather than an individual school’s timetable”.

Countering the council’s claims about exam results, Mrs Stowe said tuition pupils “do not perform as their peers simply because they are faced with many barriers to learning”. 

“The decision-making process for alternative provision is incredibly slow and many pupils miss months of education,” she said. “This prior learning has to be covered before appropriate school age material can be introduced. This also does not take into account the huge progress many make in their social skills and emotional wellbeing.”

Mrs Stowe and her colleagues have urged the council to “stand up for the minority” and preserve the current system of home tuition.

A spokesman for Caerphilly Council said it was “important to clarify that the recent changes to the council’s home tuition policy will not require children to return to school”.

“Any child whose existing arrangements are required to continue will be supported more closely by their school, as well as the local authority,” he added.

“Children will continue to receive a combination of direct support and remote learning and will, through school, have access to a broader curriculum offer.

“Should the student’s needs change in future, the links developed with schools will enable them to reintegrate if appropriate. For some students, in exceptional circumstances, the previous arrangement will remain in place.”