MORGAN: ACTION TO ENSURE CHILDREN’S EDUCATION & WELFARE
19 January 2009
MORGAN: ACTION TO ENSURE CHILDREN’S EDUCATION & WELFARE This will ensure that everything possible is being done to guarantee all children their right to a balanced education in a safe, healthy environment.The guidance makes clear that local authorities have a duty to make arrangements to enable them to establish that every school-age child is receiving a suitable education, and clarifies the roles and responsibilities of parents and local authorities to provide a suitable education for children. A public consultation gathered a wide range of views – including many on home education. Some local authorities and children’s organisations expressed concerns about the current system’s ability to adequately support and monitor the education, safety and wellbeing of home educated children.
The Government has published revised guidance on children missing education and launched a review of home education.
The review of home education will investigate the current system for supporting and monitoring home education. It will look at safeguarding and how any concerns about the safety, welfare or education of children are dealt with. There are no plans to change parents’ well established rights to educate their children at home.
It will assess the effectiveness of current arrangements for parents who home educate and of local authority systems for supporting children and families. It will also make recommendations for improvements, where necessary.Delyth Morgan said:“Making sure children are safe, well and receive a good education is our most serious responsibility. Parents are able, quite rightly, to choose whether they want to educate children at home, and a very small number do. I’m sure, the vast majority do a good job. However, there are concerns that some children are not receiving the education they need. And 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.
“This review will look at whether the right systems are in place that allow local authorities and other agencies to ensure that any concerns about the safety, welfare or education of home educated children are addressed quickly and effectively. The review will of course talk to home educating families to ensure their views and experiences are heard.”Head of policy and public affairs at the NSPCC, Diana Sutton, said: “We welcome the Government’s decision to review the guidance on home education. We believe the existing legislation and guidance on elective home education is outdated. We support the view set out by the London (LA) Children’s Safeguarding Leads network that the government should review the legislation to balance the parents’ rights to home educate their children, the local authorities’ duty to safeguard children and the child’s right to protection. We welcome the fact that this review will look at where local authorities have concerns about the safety and welfare, or education, of a home educated child and what systems are in place to deal with those concerns.”A central part of the Government’s commitment for all children is that, no matter what their background or circumstances, they have the right to achieve the five ‘Every Child Matters outcomes’: Be healthy; Stay safe; Enjoy and achieve; Make a positive contribution; Achieve economic wellbeing. The Elective Home Education Review will investigate:• Whether local authorities and other public agencies are able to effectively discharge their duties and responsibilities for safeguarding and ensuring a suitable education for all children. • Whether home educating parents are receiving the support and advice they want to ensure they provide a good, balanced education for their children.• Consider what evidence there is to support claims that home education could be used as a ‘cover’ for child abuse such as neglect, forced marriage, sexual exploitation or domestic servitude
The guidance on children missing education is the first step in clarifying expectations in respect of the current system for supporting and monitoring home education. It also makes clear that parents’ right to home educate is not being altered and that suitable home education can take many forms.
Home education is just one area highlighted in the guidance, as it describes many circumstances which can lead to children missing education. The guidance describes how important it is for local authorities to tackle all problems around children missing education, in order to meet the vision set out in the Children’s Plan, particularly keeping all children safe from harm.
Graham Badman, former Director of Children’s Services at Kent County Council will lead the review, which is expected to conclude in May 2009. Graham Badman said:"I am delighted to have been asked to lead this important review. Legislation affords every parent the right to choose to educate their child at home but with those rights go responsibilities, not least being to secure a suitable education. By the same token, local authorities are charged with ensuring that all children are safe, well and receiving an education that is both enjoyable and allows for the expression of all aptitudes and abilities. By discussing all the issues with home educating families, local authorities and other key stakeholders I will investigate whether the current system adequately supports these rights and responsibilities and if not, I will make recommendations for improvements."
Editor's Notes2. The Education and Inspections Act 2006 placed a duty on all local authorities to make arrangements to identify children not receiving a suitable education.3. Parents do not have to register a child as home educated, although they are encouraged to do so. They have to notify the school if they intend to withdraw their child to educate them at home and the school must then notify the local authority. The DCSF issued guidance on home education for local authorities in November 2007.4. All parents are required by law to provide a suitable education for their child. Where this is not happening, local authorities can intervene and issue a school attendance order.5. Where there are child protection concerns the local authority has a duty to investigate.6. As parents are not required to register home educated children (unless they are leaving a school’s rolls) there are no official statistics on the numbers of home educated children. A study commissioned by the Department for Education and Skills in 2006 estimated around 20,000 children were known to local authorities. The figure may be substantially higher.
This press notice relates to 'England'
1. Revised guidance to Local Authorities on their duty to identify Children Not Receiving a Suitable Education, can be viewed here: Resources and practice - Every Child Matters.
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