Wales politics

Home education guidance disappointing, says commissioner

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionProf Sally Holland said the new guidance is not good enough for children in Wales

New non-statutory guidance on home education in Wales does not protect the rights of pupils, the children's commissioner has said.

Currently, councils do not need to be told if a child is home educated, unless they are removed from school.

Prof Sally Holland said she was disappointed this has not been changed in the new guidance.

She renewed her calls for a compulsory register of home-schooled students but some home educators are against it.

The Welsh government said it was still "considering the potential for introducing legislation".

Prof Holland called for laws to ensure parents tell local authorities children were being educated at home following a BBC Wales investigation into the death of eight-year-old Dylan Seabridge.

A child practice review found the boy had no direct contact with agencies such as doctors, nurses and teachers from the age of 13 months.

Image copyright Wales News Service
Image caption Glynn and Julie Seabridge said they did not believe their son had scurvy

Safeguarding experts have also called for a register, saying the current guidance was in "stark contrast" to the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child.

Meanwhile, some councils have said the current guidance is not strong enough.

Prof Holland said she found the reluctance to legislate on home education "baffling".

"I think that Wales is not protecting the rights of children in Wales until it moves forward to legislate in this area," she said.

"So, I hope that when the cabinet secretary said that she would be looking towards a number of measures - including the potential for legislation - that she will move boldly forward with that.

"I've given clear evidence to the government that non-statutory guidance is not good enough for children in Wales.

"They all have a clear right to education and a clear right to have their voice heard about that education and this non-statutory guidance doesn't take us any further along that road."

Image copyright Thinkstock

A Welsh Government spokesman said: "We have listened carefully to concerns about safeguarding children who are educated at home.

"As the cabinet secretary indicated in her written statement, this new guidance will form part of a package of measures she is considering, including the potential for introducing legislation."

Jayne Palmer, chief executive of New Foundations Home Education, said the new non-statutory guidance was an invasion of privacy.

She said it gave too much power to councils and a compulsory register was a bad idea.

"I think more families will go into hiding, rather than risk being identified by local education authorities and being victimised by those who don't know what they are doing," she said.

She said current laws were "more than adequate" to allow social services or education officials access to a child if concerns are raised.

More on this story