Home schooling 'could be a cover for child abuse and sexual exploitation'
20th January 2009
Parents who educate their children at home could be using it to cover up abuse, neglect and forced marriage, the Children's Minister has claimed.
Baroness Delyth Morgan said home schooling could be masking a range of evils including sexual exploitation and domestic servitude.
Her controversial comments immediately provoked fury from home schooling groups who branded them 'offensive'.
Baroness Morgan remark came as she ordered a review of how the estimated 55,000 children who are taught at home or have dropped out from school are treated.
It is in response to local authorities' and children's charities' anxiety about their ability to properly support and monitor those who are home schooled.
But yesterday's launch appears to have been completely overshadowed by Baroness Morgan's comments.
She said: 'Parents are able, quite rightly, to choose whether they want to educate children at home, and a very small number do. I'm sure, the vast majority do a good job.
'However, there are concerns that some children are not receiving the education they need.
'And in some extreme cases, home education could be used as a cover for abuse. We cannot allow this to happen and are committed to doing all we can to help ensure children are safe, wherever they are educated.'
The review will investigate how home education is supported and monitored and how concerns about the welfare and education of a child are dealt with.
Among its explicit aims is to 'consider what evidence there is to support claims that home education could be used as a 'cover' for child abuse such as neglect, forced marriage, sexual exploitation or domestic servitude'.
Last night Ann Newstead, spokesman for the charity Education Otherwise, a charity for parents who home school their children, said claims that children were safer in the hands of the state than parents was 'offensive' and 'not born out by an increasing number of families in the UK'.
Annette Taberner, member of EO's policy group said 'no other community would be expected to suffer the prejudice and discrimination which our community has to endure. Our community will be infuriated by these latest statements.'
Currently the responsibility for the home schooling of a child rests solely with the parents and no authority has the power to inspect the quality of the learning.
Councils are not obliged to monitor it and parents don't have to answer any questions about what they are teaching.
Parents do not even have to register their child as home educated, but they must notify the school if they intend to withdraw their child from formal education in order to teach them at home. The school will then tell the local authority.
Among the options for the Elective Home Education Review are tighter monitoring although ministers stressed there are no plans to change the rights of parents to teach their children at home.
The EHER is being led by Graham Badman, former director of children's services at Kent county council.
Mr Badman said: 'Legislation affords every parent the right to choose to educate their child at home but with those rights go responsibilities, not least being to secure a suitable education.
'By the same token, local authorities are charged with ensuring that all children are safe, well and receiving an education that is both enjoyable and allows for the expression of all aptitudes and abilities.'