Parents who choose to home-school in Wales will have to register

Written by: Greg Lewis | Published:

Parents who opt to home-school their children will have to register with the government in Wales.

A task group is being set up to work out how to safeguard nearly 2,000 children who are educated at home in Wales every year. The move follows the death of 11-year-old Dylan Seabridge from scurvy.

Dylan became ill at his family’s isolated farmhouse in Pembrokeshire and died in 2011. He had had no direct contact with doctors or teachers from the age of 13 months, a Child Practice Review later found.

An independent review report into the case in 2016 called for the Welsh government to introduce a compulsory register of home-taught children. Children’s commissioner Professor Sally Holland and NSPCC Cymru have also called for a register.

Prof Holland has said many children receive excellent home-schooling but registration would ensure that none slip through the net. Numbers of home-schooled children in Wales rose slightly from 1,682 in 2015/16 to 1,724 in 2016/17, according to Welsh government figures.

Speaking in the Senedd, education secretary Kirsty Williams said: “I have accepted, in principle, the recommendation by the children’s commissioner for Wales for a statutory register for home-educated children and will be working with the commissioner to take this forward. To help support local authorities identify home-educated children in their area I will be challenging current ways of working to ensure we maximise opportunities for further strengthening collaborative approaches to protect the rights of these children to receive an education and to be safe.”

Former children’s commissioner for Wales, Keith Towler, now from the National Independent Safeguarding Board, has agreed to chair a group to lead the work.

A Welsh government spokesman said: “We are currently exploring the options available and will continue to liaise closely with the children’s commissioner as we progress this work.”

An NSPCC Cymru spokesman said: “Every family has a right to educate their child as they choose and home-learning alone is not a risk factor for abuse or neglect. But home-educated children are at increased risk of becoming invisible to authorities and it is absolutely vital that councils are able to identify those children in their area and ensure they receive the education, safeguarding and support they need.

“We know that parents want a safe learning environment for their children. A register would help to ensure this is the case for every single home educated child in Wales.”


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