What’s been said?
4 January 2018: Following calls from various groups for compulsory registration of home educators in Wales, the Assembly is currently considering the way ahead. Kirsty Williams, Cabinet Secretary for Education, accepts “in principle” the recommendation of the Children’s Commissioner for compulsory registration, following the death of 11 year old Dylan Seabridge from scurvy.
Why does it matter?
The responsibility for educating a child rests with the parent (1996 Education Act Section 7) so compulsory registration and inspection are a violation of the right of parents to educate their child as they think fit. This right is also protected in the European Convention on Human Rights, which says that “the State shall respect the right of parents to ensure such education and teaching is in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions”.
Gladys Rhodes White, author of the review into Dylan Seabridge’s death, called for a compulsory register on the grounds that current legislation conflicts with the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child – this is part of a wider agenda to “rebalance” the rights of children against the rights of their parents. This would effectively hand control to the state. Children’s Commissioner Sally Holland added her voice to the call not on children’s rights grounds but because there should be a law governing standards in elective home education. Ms Williams added a third ingredient to the mix, saying that it was important to make universal services available to every child in Wales, wherever they are educated.
The Welsh Assembly has set up a task group to investigate the feasibility and implications of compulsory registration. It will be headed up by former Children’s Commissioner Keith Towler, who is now a member of the National Independent Safeguarding Board. NSPCC Cymru has also thrown its weight behind the case for registration, suggesting that home educated children are at risk of “becoming invisible” to the authorities. A spokesperson argued that a register would ensure a safe environment for every child in Wales.
During calls for registration during an Assembly debate, Ms Williams pointed out the drawbacks in the proposal. These included the fact that a child would not be entered on the register until they reached school age, thus providing no protection during the first five years of life. She also pointed out that any parent who is determined to keep a child hidden can do so regardless of any register.
Local authorities, which are currently responsible for ensuring that all children in their area are receiving an adequate education, already have all the necessary powers to do so. The issue, according to Ms Williams, was one of increased resourcing, not increased powers.
What can I do?
Keep in touch with this site, where you will find information about registration as it becomes available. Any changes will go to public consultation, so that is your opportunity to have your say.