Parents who teach pupils at home are to be vetted

12th June 2009 at 01:00
Officials aim to ensure home-schooling is not a `cover for abuse' in the wake of Baby P case

Parents who teach their children at home will be vetted for any convictions related to abuse following recommendations in a report today.

The Elective Home Education Review was launched in January in the aftermath of the Baby P case in Haringey, north London, to ensure that home education is not used by parents as a "cover for abuse".

England has been identified as having one of the worst systems in the developed world for keeping track of children in home education. Figures from a recent TES investigation show that approximately 35,000 children are not receiving a basic education.

Speaking at the launch of the investigation, Delyth Morgan, the children's minister, said that although parents are able to choose to educate their children at home, there are some "not receiving the education they need".

Baroness Morgan added: "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."

The review - carried out by Graham Badman, a former director of children's services in Kent - calls for the law to compel parents to register their children if they are being educated at home, rather than simply informing the local authority that they intend to take a child out of school.

Parents would be expected to present local authorities with a statement of how they will ensure their child's education progresses over the next 12 months.

Local authority officials with additional training would visit homes, giving parents two weeks' notice to develop a progress report. Officials would be given access to the children alone, and a report drawn up that would be shared with the parents to challenge if they chose.

Speaking before the publication of the report, Fiona Nicholson of Education Otherwise, a home education support group, said any register would be "intrusive" on families. "There is a lot of fear that restrictions will be brought in by the back door," Ms Nicholson said. "We are very cynical about the whole thing. We have put forward more than 40 recommendations of our own, but we doubt any of them will be paid any notice."

The Department for Children, Schools and Families has issued new guidance with the Home Office to safeguard children from sexual exploitation and prostitution. It revises guidelines published in 2000 in a report, Safeguarding Children involved in Prostitution. Delyth Morgan called all frontline professionals to work together to identify children at risk of sexual exploitation and take the "best steps to keep them safe from harm".

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