Abuse prompts calls for compulsory home-schooling register

Image source, Getty Images

The case of a west Wales couple who kept their daughter locked up at home has prompted renewed calls for a compulsory home-schooling register.

The Welsh Government has a voluntary system in place for parents who choose to educate their children themselves.

But some believe this needs to be reconsidered to ensure all children are protected.

All parents have a right to educate their children at home. Some choose to do it because their child has a disability or a learning difficulty, while others believe their child will benefit more outside of mainstream education.

Mid and West Wales AM Helen Mary Jones said: "The vast majority of home-schooling is a good choice made by good parents, but we know there is a small minority where things go wrong and I believe we should have those children registered - we should know they're being home-schooled.

"I also think an annual medical check - it's quite common when children are in primary school, they may see the school dentist or the school nurse, and I just think as a precaution it would be really useful."

Two years ago similar calls were made following the publication of a report into the death of eight-year-old Dylan Seabridge in 2011.

Image source, Wales News Service
Image caption,
The Crown Prosecution Service decided not to pursue its case of neglect against Dylan's parents Glynn and Julie Seabridge

Home-schooled by his parents, he had had no contact with any doctors, nurses or teachers since the age of 13 months. He died of scurvy.

Recommendations were made to improve the situation, but Children's Commissioner for Wales Sally Holland said she believes change is not happening quickly enough.

She said: "I've been calling for the government to act in a stronger way, so have all the directors of education in Wales, all the directors of social services and the government's own independent safeguarding board.

"For me the pace of change has been too slow and hasn't been strong enough to ensure every child gets the right to an education to be safe and to have their say."

A Welsh Government spokesman said: "Earlier this year the education secretary announced plans to consult on regulations that will require local authorities to establish a database to identify children not on a school register.

"The safeguarding of children in Wales has been strengthened through the introduction of legislation and the establishment of regional and national safeguarding boards.

"We are also reviewing and updating national protection procedures to examine how social services and education practitioners can work together and share information to ensure children who are home-schooled get the support they need."