Protection of home-schooled children back in spotlight

Bill aiming to protect home-schooled children is back in the spotlight

A controversial bill aiming to offer home-schooled children better protection is expected to seek backing from peers in the House of Lords later this month.

Parents home-schooling their children

We wrote about the private members’ Home Education Bill put forward by Lord Soley in the last EducationEye, following its second reading in the House of Lords in November last year.

The Bill aims to make it mandatory for parents to notify education authorities when their child reaches school age and for any home-schooled child to receive regular assessments.

If it is eventually passed by the Lords, it will go to the House of Commons for consideration. A minority of private members’ bills become law, but they can create publicity for an issue and affect legislation indirectly.

The rise in home schooling numbers will affect a wide range of work that Prospect members support, including exclusion, safeguarding and special educational needs and disability (SEND), and will directly impact those working as education welfare officers to ensure every child receives a suitable, full-time education.

Prospect contacted Lord Soley to confirm the union would make a submission on the Bill when it is open to public consultation and asked him why he is pushing for the legislation.

This is what Lord Soley had to say.

“I have been aware of the issues around home education for some years.

“I am not opposed to home education but some parents need help and there is evidence that a minority of schools are pushing parents into home education because of the child’s difficulties in school.

“There is also a minority of parents who are use home education for radicalisation, trafficking and abuse. My Bill would require all children to be registered and for an annual or more frequent assessment.” 

Writing in The Times last month, Lord Soley cited research from the National Children’s Bureau, which found that almost 50,000 children disappeared from schools last year.

He said the number of children being home-schooled is increasing dramatically, with some areas reporting a 45% increase over the past five years. He has suggested the government find out why this is happening and how well home-educated children are doing generally.

Steve Thomas, Prospect national secretary, said: “Prospect members are becoming increasingly concerned about the dramatic increases in the number of children in home education.

“The statutory obligation of local authorities to ensure that children receive a suitable education is an important principle that puts a child’s needs first, and high-profile stories have put that and home education back in the spotlight.  

“As the union for education professionals, working to ensure that suitable education and support is provided, we will examine revised guidance coming out from the Department for Education and ensure that the voice of our members is taken into consultation.”