Home education ‘can be cover for abuse and forced marriage’
Thousands of children supposedly educated at home by their parents are at risk of abuse, neglect, forced marriage, sexual exploitation or domestic servitude, the Government said yesterday.
Baroness Morgan of Drefelin, the Children’s Minister, has ordered a review of the rules covering the estimated 20,000 home-educated children in England and the 20,000 or so labelled as “missing from education”, who have dropped out of school before the age of 16.
The review follows mounting concern from local authorities that their overarching duty to promote and protect child welfare is undermined by the present rules, under which responsibility for a child’s education rests squarely with the parents. The role of local authorities is to compile a list of children not attending school and to take appropriate action if a child is not getting a “suitable” education.
Councils have no statutory duty to monitor the quality of education that children are receiving at home, there is no legal duty on parents to answer any question that the council might ask them about their child’s schooling and there is no definition of what constitutes a suitable education.
Lady Morgan said
“In some extreme cases, home education could be used as a cover for abuse. We cannot allow this to happen and are committed to doing all we can to help ensure children are safe, wherever they are educated,” she said.
Home education was also used as a cover for forced marriages, Lady Morgan suggested.
The review, which will report in May, is being conducted by Graham Badman, former director of children’s services with Kent County Council. Among the measures he will consider is whether all children who are home educated should be registered with the local authority.
At present only those who are pulled out of school need to register. Those never entered on a school roll do not, making it very difficult for councils to keep track of total numbers. Children permanently excluded from school, for example, whose families then move to a different local authority area, are often not known to the new authority.
Comments from the Times website:
What has happened to inoccent until proven guilty? Good parents should not be forced to teach their children the way the government wants and this IS what will happen if they start to keep records of home educators as there always has to be a form with boxes to tick.
MRS ADAMS, BELFAST,
We home educate 4 children as well all exceeding the state requirements.
Ben, London, England
The point is the government will intervene, set their on rules on “how they want it done” which frankly is totally unacceptable. Parents should have the right to teach their own children their way etc and not be made subject to the state.
Alexander, T, Sidcup, Kent, UK
As ever, extreme examples being used by the State to try and increase its control. This must be resisted – the primary responsibility for child welfare and education lies with families.
John Scott, London,