My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families (Ed Balls) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
On 19 January 2009 I asked Graham Badman to carry out a review of elective home education in England. The terms of reference for the review emphasised the Government’s recognition of parents’ well established right to educate their children at home. They also set out our commitment to keeping home educated children safe, and ensuring that they receive a suitable education. I am grateful to Graham Badman and the review team for conducting a thorough review which carefully considered extensive evidence provided by home educators; local authorities (LAs); and representatives from a wide range of organisations and individuals working with children and parents involved in home education.
The terms of reference commissioned Graham Badman to investigate the barriers to LAs and other public agencies in carrying out their safeguarding responsibilities; whether LAs were providing effective and appropriate support; and whether there was evidence of home education being used to cover child abuse. From this evidence, he was asked to identify whether any changes were needed to the current regime of monitoring home education.
The review makes a compelling case for substantial changes to the arrangements for supporting and monitoring home education. It recognises the wide range of philosophical and practical reasons that lie behind parents’ decisions to home educate. It acknowledges that in some cases home educated children have been withdrawn from school under a range of difficult circumstances: this is reflected in the relatively high proportion of children with special educational needs who are home educated, and other cases where children have been bullied or had other experiences that leave them unable to attend school. These children and families need support from their local authorities in a way that enables them to access appropriate advice and guidance, receive specialist services, and use extended school provision and facilities such as leisure centres and libraries. The review argues for fresh thinking and further consultation with children, their families, local authorities and others involved in home education to identify ways to commission services for this very diverse sector in order to support the best possible outcomes for the children concerned.
The review also found evidence that there are a small number of cases where home educated children have suffered harm because safeguarding concerns were not picked up, or not treated with sufficient urgency, particularly where parents were unco-operative or obstructed local authority investigations. It sets out specific steps that should be taken to address these risks as well as improving the monitoring of the education provided: a compulsory registration scheme; a discretion to local authorities to prohibit home education where there are safeguarding concerns; and the right for LA representatives to interview home educated children to establish whether they are safe and receiving a suitable education. I am today launching a public consultation on these proposals so that they can be introduced to Parliament at the earliest possible opportunity.
Copies of the review and our initial response have been placed in the House of Libraries.